In addition to history and prophecy, the book of Daniel presents a profile of the character and conduct of Daniel himself. God prepares Daniel by testing him spiritually, developing him morally, and equipping him intellectually. As a result, Daniel is an impressive example of what a servant of God should be like. He was fixed in purpose, fervent in prayer, fearless in testimony, faithful in service, and fruitful in character; may we have grace to emulate him.
Fixed in Purpose - 1.8
Daniel was in a foreign country amidst an ungodly culture. He had been taken from his family, friends, and a godly influence. Similar situations arise today when young people are uprooted from Christian backgrounds to attend university, or start employment away from home. It is a critical time of severe temptation and the question arises, "Will they stand for God?". Daniel did, and he brought glory to his God and blessing to many.
Daniel and his three friends were selected to attend the royal court and "stand before the king". To integrate them into the "new society" they were given pagan names (an insult to Jews), put on a special diet from the king's own table, and indoctrinated in all the Chaldean culture.
They meekly bore the reproach of the name change, but Daniel realised that the food on offer was probably unclean according to Jewish law, or had been offered to idols; either way it would be disobeying God to eat it. This might have seemed to be a thing of little consequence, but, to Daniel, it was a matter of conscience and principle; there could be no compromise. To partake involved abandoning his faith, defiling himself, and leading others into sin. Daniel, therefore, "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat", and courteously asked for a diet of pulse and water instead. It was a high-risk strategy, but he was bold in faith and God honoured him accordingly.
Daniel's example illustrates the truth of separation from ungodly practices and the need to hide God's Word in our heart. No faith - no fixity, is an abiding principle (Is 7.9). It is more than "making up our minds", for such decisions involve the affections of the heart; obedience to God is a test and proof of love. Daniel's decision proved to be the foundation of his future life and the secret of his spiritual success.
Fervent in Prayer - 2.1-23
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which he could not remember and insisted that his wise men told him the dream and its meaning. If they failed they would all be slain, including the Hebrew four. An impossible demand and a cruel decree! However, Daniel confidently asked the king for time and he would give both the dream and its meaning. Then Daniel called a prayer meeting - how wise and delightful. Agreed and united, they prayed earnestly for enlightenment and deliverance (cp. Mt 18.19-20). God answered and prayers turned to praise!
Later Daniel is in another crisis (ch.6). His enemies had conspired against him, and persuaded the king to outlaw all prayer, unless it was offered to the king. Anyone who disobeyed would be cast into the den of lions. Daniel, however, did not change his habit. "He kneeled...and prayed, and gave thanks...as he did aforetime" (6.10); he followed his usual manner of devotions, including thanksgiving. He was soon seen praying, though he was not praying to be seen! The decree was duly executed but Daniel was delivered because "he believed in his God" (6.23). We cannot help but admire Daniel's self-control and composure throughout these ordeals.
In ch.9 we see Daniel at prayer again. He had been reading the Scriptures, always a necessary exercise in relation to prayer. His reading in Jeremiah had led him into the spirit of heartfelt prayer and intercession. He concluded with brief and simple cries from the heart: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do...O my God" (9.19). No wonder that, whilst he was speaking, he was heard and his prayer answered (9.21).
It is likely that Daniel was praying in ch.10 when he saw a vision of a man, heard his voice, and felt his touch. It was, no doubt, a vision of Christ and Daniel's greatest experience. An interesting feature of his prayer life is his passionate desire to know the truth and meaning of the visions: "I…asked him the truth of all this", "I would know the truth", and, "I…sought for the meaning (7.16,19; 8.15). Diligent prayer leads us into truth and to a deeper knowledge of the Lord Himself. Daniel's prayers were intelligent, reverent and consistent. "Lord, teach us to pray."
Fearless in Testimony - 2.28
Daniel did not hesitate to speak of God in public, even to kings. He witnessed in the following ways.
1) God exists –"There is a God in heaven" (2.28); this was a bold statement to a heathen king who believed in many gods. Daniel added, "…that revealeth secrets", a God that makes Himself and His purposes known. We are surrounded by an atheistic and materialistic society, and our duty is to remind people of the fact of God.
2) God exercises control – "The most High ruleth" (4.25); Daniel impressed Nebuchadnezzar with the fact that all authority is derived from, and delegated by God, who is sovereign and fulfils His own purposes (Rom 13.1).
3) God expects righteousness – "Break off thy sins by righteousness" (4.27); thus he appealed to the king to repent and to do good.
4) God executes judgment – "Thou art weighed in the balances…" (5.27-30); Daniel warned the wicked Belshazzar of impending doom.
Daniel is a fine example of a true and effective witness. His testimony changed the lives of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus and affected the course of history. How many lives have we influenced for God?
Faithful in Service - 6.4
Faithfulness is an exquisite quality, the mark of a sterling character. The Scripture asks the question, "A faithful man, who can find?" (Prov 20.6). Daniel's "excellent spirit" (6.3) incited the hatred and jealousy of his enemies, who conspired to destroy him, but "they could not find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful" (6.4). In the midst of widespread corruption, as in our day, nothing underhand or questionable was found in Daniel's conduct. What commendation! How scrupulously careful, honest and diligent he must have been. How would we fare under such scrutiny? The Lord is looking for good and faithful servants (1 Tim 3.2,7; Phil 2.15). May we cultivate this quality and find, as Daniel did, that "A faithful man shall abound with blessings" (Prov 28.20).
Fruitful in Character - 1.21
Thus Daniel pleased the Lord, and prospered, was promoted, and was preferred (1.21; 6.3,28). We notice, among other things, the characteristics of sagacity and sincerity (1.17; 2.14), humility and serenity (2.30), and purity and dignity (4.8,18; 5.11,12). Finally, he is assured of eternal rest (12.13), and is singularly remembered for his righteousness and wisdom (Ezek 14.14; 28.3). Our Lord also refers to him as "Daniel the prophet", and quotes from his book (Mt 24.15; 26.64).
Daniel in many ways reminds us of the Lord Jesus Himself, for He was ever fixed in purpose, fervent in prayer, fearless in testimony, faithful in service and infinitely fruitful. Indeed, Daniel's experience of ch.6 reminds us of the false accusations levelled at the Lord; of the lion's mouth in Psalm 22.21; the stone and seal of Matthew 27.66; and the subsequent deliverance on account of personal righteousness. Furthermore Daniel has the distinction of being described as "greatly beloved" (9.23; 10.11,19), so reminiscent of Him who is the "Only Beloved".