"Daniel: Gods man in a secular society"
(D K Campbell, Discovery House, 1988)
One feature of the Scriptures is that they contain a rich and varied collection of character studies. For the purposes of this article, lets consider Daniel.
The starting-point in studying a Bible personality is to consider the setting. For Daniel, note the following:
Historical: Daniel lived at a time of momentous change. God allowed a foreign force (Babylon) to take captive His people (the Jews) (1.1-2). Daniel therefore experienced the commencement of the "times of the Gentiles" (Lk 21.24).
Spiritual: Moses had previously warned the nation of Israel that failure to obey God would bring certain judgment (Deut 28.15-68). This was fulfilled in Daniels day as Gods people returned to a position of slavery.
Cultural: As an inhabitant of Babylon, Daniel knew what it was to live "away from home" (1.6). As with Joseph, he resisted the danger of conforming to the culture of his day (cp. Gen 39.7-9 & Dan 1.8). We too need to follow their example (Rom 12.1-2).
Occupational: Irrespective of the world power (Babylon, Medes & Persians), Daniel was elevated to various positions of importance (1.19; 2.48; 5.31-6.1-3). As Daniel himself testifies, the promotion came from above (cp. 1.17; Ps 75.6-7).
Doctrinal: Daniel is used to Jehovah being extolled as "the Most High God" (e.g. 3.26; 4.2,17; 5.18; 7.18). In addition, Daniel conveyed a unique prophecy foretelling the exact time when Messiah would present Himself to the nation of Israel, face rejection, but ultimately provide eternal blessing (9.25-26).
Bible characters develop over time. It is therefore important to consider the character in sequence. For Daniel, we know he lived through the entire period of captivity (1.21), lasting 70 years (Jer 25.11-14; 29.10-14). We are therefore able to glean truth from three distinct phases of his life:
Truth for the Teenager: In the opening chapter, Daniel and his friends are described as "children" (1.4,17). The term is descriptive of young men and how they were able to live godly lives as teenagers.
Ministry for the Middle-Aged: At the end of his three year course (1.5,18) Daniel entered into service in the royal court. History indicates that Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 40+ years and hence Daniel must have been in his mid 50s during the incident recorded in ch.5. Note the references in 5.11-12 and 6.23 and consider how Daniel remained true to God.
Encouragement for the Elderly: Growing older and colder is a sad feature of many Bible characters but not Daniel! The captivity of Israel ended under the reign of Cyrus (10.1; Ezra 1) and, by this stage, Daniel would be in his mid to late 80s. Despite his advanced years, Daniel remained sensitive to the plight of Gods people note his description in 10.19.
But what made Daniel tick? The book that carries his name is full of insights. Consider, for example, his:
Ancestry: Daniel came from a family background that was noble in character (1.3). The concluding chapters of 2 Kings present the Jews (both the nation and the royal family) as sinful, but Daniel was different. It is equally important for us to remain faithful irrespective of how others live.
Burden: Daniel was wholehearted in his commitment to please God and he sought to retain the distinction between himself and his captors (1.8-16). Is this what burdens the people of God today?
Courage: The song "Dare to be a Daniel" is apt for he was happy to speak out for the truth (1.8; 2.16), no matter the personal cost (6.10). Men of principle are also men of power!
Dependency: Daniel was a man of prayer, and not just when he faced opposition note the conclusion to 6.10. His dependency upon God can be viewed in terms of the frequency, posture, spirit and content of his prayers (see also 9.4,20).
Education: As with Moses (Acts 7.22), Daniel was taught the ways of a foreign people, but the ultimate source of his "knowledge" (reasoning skills and thought processes) was Jehovah (1.17). God remains the source of wisdom for believers today (James 1.5).
Faithfulness: We have already noted the chronological detail to Daniels life, but notice the twofold reference to his "heart" at the beginning and end he remained faithful to Jehovah (1.8; 10.12). An apt summary of Daniel is found in 6.4, and Hebrews 11.33 also refers to him.
Gift: During His earthy ministry, the Lord upheld the historicity of Daniel as a "prophet" (Mt 24.15). His ability to decode dreams and point forward to Messiah was a divinely ordained gift. There are no prophets today but God still gifts His people to serve Him (1 Cor 12).
Daniel was undoubtedly influenced by his friends, particularly given their own devotion to God (1.6,7,17,19,20; 3.12-30). In addition, Scripture refers to Daniel in the same breath as Noah and Job (Ezek 14.14,20). The adage is true "You get like the company you keep"! We should therefore choose our friends carefully as they will influence our outlook as Christians.
In studying Bible characters we should always seek to identify the key lessons and challenges for today. From Daniel, consider:
Sovereignty: "The theme of the book is the sovereign rule of God over the realm of man" (The Most High God, R Showers, Friends of Israel, 1994). Note how this truth is established from the outset of the book (1.2,9,17).
Spirituality: Daniel was able to combine holiness and humility throughout his life. He displayed the character of God (4.18; 5.11) and acknowledged that his powers were sourced in heaven (2.30; 9.3-4).
Scriptures: If Daniel read and studied the Scriptures (9.1-2), then we too must read them regularly and systematically.
Supplications: Prayer should be part and parcel of the Christians daily routine (6.10).
Saviour: Daniel recorded some important insights into the person and work of Messiah (2.44-45; 7.9-14; 9.25-26). Spirit-filled Bible characters will point our thoughts to the Saviour.
To be continued.