, I studied the first part of Daniel 1
. Daniel is an interesting study of men living for God despite opposition and God using this situation to reveal his ultimate plans for history and mankind. I'm going to finish the first chapter today and talk about how God elevated Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to leadership within the Babylonian empire.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
I believe the author, Daniel, is atttempting to express irony here. These men were being trained by the king of Babylon to work in his court. The reality was that these men weren't interested in such service. They were pursuing service of God and God was preparing them for work in his Kingdom.
I believe this to be one of the basic foundations of being a Christian. While I may work for a company here on earth and may participate in the political processes of the United States, that's really a secondary loyalty. The Bible admonishes us to follow that secondary loyalty as much as we can, but it is still the responsibility of each Christian to seek God and to do His will above all. God is always faithful to us to prepare us for whichever position we end up in, whether that be a job we like or hate, a place filled with fiends or enemies. God is always more faithful to us than we are to him.
In the case of Daniel and these other men, God prepares them in ways that will make them most suitable to the king's court. The Babylonians believed in the importance and interpretation of dreams. Therefore, the man whom Nebuchadnezzar would find most trustworthy would be the man that could interpret his dreams properly. We might not, in general, believe that our dreams are significant today, but this was not the case then. Being able to understand dreams would have been as significant in 600 BC in Babylon as being able to accurately forecast stock prices is today in the United States.
18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.
These men were so gifted that they stood head and shoulder above any of the others. I think it's important to note that God doesn't often work with individuals to place them into excellent positions of authority like this. For example, the last prophet, John the Baptist, was placed on earth to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry. This very important man lived in the desert (Mark 1:2-4
), ate bugs (Matthew 3:4
), and had no status whatsoever. However, in the case of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, it served God's purpose that these men be promoted to the highest and most prestigious office in the land of Babylon.
20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Amazingly, not only were these men found better than the others but they were "ten times better" than any other wise man in the entire country. From the modern political mind, it might seem that it would be a relatively easy feat to impress the political leader of a superpower with your wisdom if you were even slightly less dull than the average political adviser. However, it's worth remembering that the king of Babylon was more than an elected politician who had to suffer political opinion, public media visibility, and the other issues of modern politics.
Nebuchadnezzar was an intelligent, brutal, egotistical, and calculating man who understood the way others think and feel. He knew how they could be motivated and manipulated to do his will. He would have needed the opinion of others to help him do this most effectively and, given the education process already documented earlier in the chapter, he took this seriously. Nebuchadnezzar was probably not easily impressed, but if these men were an order of magnitude better than his other counselors, he was probably very impressed indeed.
God impressed this man with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah because God would use these men to shake the empire to it's foundations. He would use these men to show in a very visible way that though God had allowed the nation of Israel to be utterly destroyed and the nation of Judah to be crushed and taken into captivity, He was still watching over His chosen people. It is because of Daniel and these men and the other faithful remnant of God that allowed Israel to remain faithful until the time of Christ and, really, to build the foundation that has hardened the Hebrew culture to withstand over two-thousand years of hatred, oppression, pogroms, and holocaust.
I believe the lesson for us is that God follows through with those who are willing to serve faithfully. Daniel was kidnapped by Babylonians from his home. He was taken to another land where he probably understood very little if anything of the language and culture. By all visible evidence, he could have concluded that God had abandoned Israel or that God was no god at all if he couldn't have prevented this atrocity.
Yet, he seems to have remembered Deuteronomy 7:9-10
, "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face." I'm convinced that whether he new this verse himself (and likely he did, if he was raised at all in Hebrew schools to be a nobleman prior to his capture), he knew this truth. God is faithful to those who are faithful and he will destroy those who hate him. Babylon is no more. Israel remains.
We must remember this lesson and whenever life get's tough. Remember that hardship doesn't mean God is faithless, but that God is being faithful in a greater way that we might not be able to comprehend from our narrow view of reality. We must be faithful and God will give us the strength and wisdom we need to complete the task before us in a godly way. Amen.
In my next study of Daniel, I will be examining how Nebuchadnezzar had such a powerful dream that he demanded that his wise men interpret for him or he would have them cut to tiny pieces and their houses reduced to dust. God uses Daniel through this episode to save the lives of Daniel and the others and to further establish Daniel's position of authority.