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Bible Articles and Lessons: D

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Daniel, taking a stand for God

Dare to be a Daniel.

The integrity of the prophet Daniel is sometimes overlooked in the excitement of understanding the prophecies written in the book that bears his name.

Dan 2 unfolds the fascinating interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's awesome image (see page 4 of this issue). Dan 7 contains an equally intriguing vision and explanation about four beasts, a little horn, the saints, and the Kingdom of God. Dan 8 presents a comparable intrigue between a ram, a he-goat, their horns, and the people of the saints. As a response to Daniel's impassioned prayer, chapter 9 ends with the multi-aspected, far-reaching "seventy weeks prophecy". The remaining chapters unfold an angel's story meant to "make you [Daniel] understand what is to befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come" (Dan 10:14).

Yet even Daniel didn't understand all that was revealed to him (Dan 12:8). But he did believe in his God! So the book rightly ends with a key message of the book -- the ultimate reward for Daniel's integrity:
"But go your way till the end; and you shall rest, and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days" (Dan 12:13).
Daniel will "stand" at the end-time (when God judges men by Jesus Christ) because he consistently made his stand for God during his lifetime.

Remember the first time Daniel took a stand for God? He was a Jewish teenager in Babylonian exile. Taken from his royal/noble life in Judah for the express purpose of being indoctrinated with the culture and lifestyle of the Chaldeans, Daniel refused to eat the food offered to him -- probably because it had been dedicated to pagan gods and/or categorized as 'unclean' by the law of Moses.
"But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's rich food, or with the wine which he drank; therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself" (Dan 1:8).
And his resolution for personal integrity and God-honoring behavior was rewarded:
"God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs" (Dan 1:9).
Blessed with understanding and wisdom ten times better than anyone else in Babylon, Daniel was suddenly 'on the hook' to explain Nebuchadnezzar's mysterious dream -- or else he would be killed along with the other 'wise men'. In addition to his prudence and discretion in answering this challenge (Dan 2:14), Daniel immediately went to his God-fearing comrades and "told them to seek mercy of the God of heaven concerning this mystery..." (Dan 2:18). Because Daniel made it absolutely clear that only God in heaven could provide the right interpretation to the king's vision (Dan 2:27-30,45), he was again rewarded by God via Nebuchadnezzar:
"Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon" (Dan 2:48).
When Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel about another dream, the man of integrity gave it to the king straight from the shoulder: "...O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your tranquillity" (Dan 4:27). The outcome of this warning was a remarkable 'conversion' of Nebuchadnezzar and an even more remarkable distributed statement exalting and praising the Most High God (Dan 4:1-3,34-37).

The significance of these declarations is twofold. Nebuchadnezzar had already been mightily impressed with the stand taken by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Daniel's three comrades who likewise resolved to honor God even at the cost of their lives (Dan 3:16-18). Consequently, Nebuchadnezzar had issued a decree extolling the God of Israel, and rewarded the three men appropriately (Dan 3:28-30). So this was the second time that an empire-wide decree was made telling people about the wonderful God of Israel!

Unfortunately, Nebuchadnezzar's grandson king Belshazzar did not learn from the example of his grandfather. Shocked sober by the divine handwriting on the wall, he implored Daniel to explain the words. (Chapter 5 of Daniel's book tells this dramatic story of the prophet's continued integrity.) Daniel had refused to take part in the king's revelry and debauchery, which pointedly mocked the God of Israel. He also refused any reward from this vain and unrepentant king. In the midst of a party dedicated to the praise of the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone, Daniel took his stand for the living God and declared the end of the Babylonian empire to its badly-shaken ruler! And so Babylon fell to the Persian army that very night.

Fortunately, the next king Darius the Mede (who had commanded the Persian army) did understand the value of a man like Daniel, as demonstrated by his keeping him on from the old regime. Now well on in years, Daniel did not fail to pray three times a day to his God. The result of this dedication was reflected in his service to the king who, like the monarchs before him, rewarded such distinguished behavior:
"Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom" (Dan 6:3).
Tricked into having his top administrator thrown into the lion's den, Darius "set his mind to deliver Daniel, and he labored till the sun went down to rescue him" (Dan 6:14). Unable to undo the 'law of the Medes and Persians', Darius went with his man to the den of lions and said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!" (Dan 6:16). Triumphantly, God did! Darius was so thrilled that he issued an empire-wide decree surpassing even those of Nebuchadnezzar in the praise and exaltation of the God of Daniel (Dan 6:25-27). Because one man took a stand for God, "all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth" would hear about "the living God, enduring for ever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end."

See then how the lifestyle of Daniel was as important as his prophecies and interpretation-capabilities. Two monarchs were greatly impressed, resulting in two empires being given a prophetic message of the most fundamental kind: know who God really is, and serve Him (cp Heb 11:6)! Warning the wayward, encouraging the faithful, and vindicating God were -- and are -- three key purposes of Bible prophecy.

The New Testament teaching is the same. Two passages illustrate the need for disciples of Christ to get their strength from God so that they can withstand the evil days and be found still standing for Christ when he returns:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil... Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph 6:10-13).

"But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:34-36).
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