Recently I heard a large number of voices singing, with fervour and gusto, the hymn, "Dare to be a Daniel". The words, well known in the days of my youth, brought back memories both of Primary and Sunday schools. The chorus, sung at the end of every verse, left our young lips with zeal:
Dare to be a Daniel!
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.
The words came from the pen of Philip Bliss, a prolific American writer of hymns, as did "Almost Persuaded", "Man of Sorrows, what a name!" and many others. He died in 1876, a young man of 38 years, in a train crash, losing his life in an attempt to rescue his wife who also perished. Apart from the opening two lines, "Standing by a purpose true, Heeding Gods command", the exhortations found in the hymn tell us little about Daniels life and "purpose true". It may be that in 1873, when it was written, it was assumed that the story of Daniel was known by most.
Although the events recorded in the book of Daniel took place over 2,600 years ago, the lessons they teach are still relevant today. Scripture is never out of date! The Israelites were captives of Babylon. Young men who were intelligent and capable were taken from Jerusalem into Nebuchadnezzars palace to be taught "the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans" (Dan 1.4). The objective was to "make them" Babylonians, "such as had ability in them to stand in the kings palace". It sounds familiar! The world still pursues the same goal with young Christians whose desire is to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3.18). Changing their objectives is the plan, so that they will be "conformed to this world" and lose sight of the "good, and acceptable" will of God (Rom 12.1-2).
In the light of these circumstances, Daniel was firm in his purpose. First, "the king appointed them a daily provision of the kings meat, and of the wine which he drank" (1.5). In addition, Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all names that were based on the name of the God of Israel, were given new names, each based on Babylonish idols. Daniel became Belteshazzar and the others, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Living in the palace they were presented with the best of fare, a menu that would have been the envy of others, but would have defiled an Israelite.
The policy of the Adversary has not changed. To the Christian the world and all its attractions, some subtle and some less so, beckon. The warning, often voiced in years past and still relevant today, is that "What the world does today, the church will do tomorrow". Let the warning grip us. Daniel had the courage to put his convictions into practice, to determine his own menu according to the Scriptures, and he prospered. When tested he became a proven servant of the Lord.
Second, Nebuchadnezzar "dreamed a dream" (2.3) which his "wise men" could not interpret. As a result the king determined to put them to death. Daniel and his four friends, however, prayed (2.17-18), the answer was given, and Daniel was able to interpret the dream. All the wisdom of the world was unable to bring an answer. Only Gods word could do so. In prayer this was revealed to him. When faced with troubles he showed himself to be a prayerful servant.
Third, in later life, and under another monarch, Daniels opponents determined to have him slain. A number of years had passed since he had proved himself as a faithful servant of the Lord. A decree was signed that no prayer to the Lord, only to the king, was to be made for a period of thirty days. Daniels enemies knew that his prayers would continue (6.10). By their wicked actions this faithful servant of the Lord was cast into the den of lions, but was delivered. He showed himself to be a preserved servant. When Daniel was in danger the Lord took care of him.
The world around challenges us! But remember, there will be circumstances that allow us to prove ourselves faithful; opportunities will abound to learn the power of prayer; difficulties will beset us in which we experience His preserving grace. Surely that has not to be missed. Young Christians, "Dare to be Daniel" even when we must "Dare to stand alone".