Daniel—The Moral and Intellectual Giant
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)
“Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children. Godliness—godlikeness—is the goal to be reached.”1As we consider the Lord’s ideal for us, we feel intimidated, even hopeless, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” ( ). Can we someday reach this ideal? Can we live a life of continual growth, and not merely a series of ups and downs? ( ).
Yes, through Him who lived a perfect life for 33½ years, we can be more than victorious! His life was given to us. We will not be saved because of our obedience, but we will obey because we are saved—resurrected with Him in newness of life, renewed by His Spirit, new creatures in Christ Jesus and clothed with His righteousness! (; .)
The Lord not only sets the ideal—He abundantly pours out His grace upon us and displays His methods and His power, plus He gives us inspiring human examples in His word.
“The word of God not only sets forth the great principles of truth and duty which should govern our lives, but it presents also, for our encouragement, the history of many who have exemplified these principles. Men ‘subject to like passions as we are’ (2) have fought with temptation and conquered in the strength of an Almighty Helper. Under difficulties greater than we are called to meet, men have been true to duty and to God.”
Among these examples there is one that shines for the glory of our Lord in a very special way:
“Except the one perfect Pattern, there is not described in the sacred pages a single character more worthy of emulation than that of the prophet Daniel. Exposed in youth to all the allurements of a royal court, he became a man of unbending integrity and fervent devotion to God. He was subjected to the fierce temptations of Satan, yet his character was not vacillating, nor his course changeable. He was firm where many would be yielding; he was true where they would be false; he was strong where they would be weak. Daniel was a lofty cedar of Lebanon.”3
“A lofty cedar” of “unbending integrity” under the roaring Babylon—what could be more encouraging for us today, as we soon must face the storm of tomorrow’s Babylon! Such a beautiful life, such an inspiring experience! From the plentiful life with his parents belonging to the noble class in Jerusalem to being enchained as an exile to Babylon; from the desolation of slavery, to the brilliance of the royal university among the palaces and temples of the world’s emperor; from the position of ruling the whole empire to the lions’ den, this man was shining for his God—and no device of the enemy could make him waver! Humble, noble, with a brilliant intellect, spotlessly serving his oppressors and his beloved Saviour, ruling an empire and still never missing his devotional time, Daniel’s life became an encouragement for many generations.
“Would that the faith, integrity, and devotion of the prophet Daniel might live in the hearts of God’s people of today. Never were these noble qualities more needed in the world than now.”4
How could this man “subject to like passions as we are,” succeed under such heavy circumstances? If we understand his motivation, we can be inspired to follow the same principles, use the same spiritual tools in our own experience, and expect similar results. So, let us prayerfully examine some aspects of Daniel’s experience:
For the Burj Khalifa, the highest artificial structure in the world today—standing at 829.8 meters (2,716.5 feet)—the foundation of 45,000 cubic meters, weighing 110,000 tons, represents about 1/7 of the total amount of concrete used for the whole building. It’s true that visitors generally admire only the “visible” part of the tower, not the 50-meter buried foundation. But who can doubt the crucial importance of such a foundation?
Likewise, what about the foundation of the character possessed by Daniel, “a moral giant,”5the best one presented in the Bible, after Jesus? How could he gain the confidence of about ten emperors as the best prime minister—being a foreigner, even a slave?
“Daniel’s parents had trained him in his childhood to habits of strict temperance. They had taught him thathe must conform to nature’s lawsin all his habits; that his eating and drinking had a direct influence upon his physical, mental, and moral nature, and that he was accountable to God for his capabilities; for he held them all as a gift from God, and must not, by any course of action, dwarf or cripple them.As the result of this teaching, the law of God was exaltedin his mind, and reverenced in his heart.”6
At the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, Daniel’s earthly riches and social status were abruptly snatched away by instant slavery. But his royal, spiritual riches would never be taken away—an understanding of self-control and a deep sense of responsibility, of accountability to God for all his talents. This noble youth and his three friends understood early in life that there is only One possible foundation (), broad, large, eternal—and they resolutely decided to build their life on it!
“This [parental] education was to Daniel and his companions the means of their preservation amid the demoralizing influences of the court of Babylon. Strong were the temptations surrounding them in that corrupt and luxurious court, but they remained uncontaminated. No power, no influence, could sway them from the principles they had learned in early life by a study of the word and works of God.”7The faithful work done by God-fearing parents had immeasurable results, touching not only time, but eternity. The people of Israel were passing through difficult times. Disobedience and idolatry had brought disaster upon the whole nation. But these families had managed to set things in their proper place in their home life, to set their priorities correctly. This brings us hope in our day.
The solid roots planted in their childhood brought their blessed results. Daniel and his friends could have reasoned that because of their difficult circumstances, it would not be advisable to go against the king’s will and thereby offend him and endanger their lives, presuming that a slight departure from obedience to God’s ordinances would have had no effect.
“But Daniel did not hesitate.The approval of God was dearer to himthan the favor of the most powerful earthly potentate—dearer than life itself. He determined to stand firmin his integrity, let the result be what it might.”8
On the other hand, today, why are so many of God’s children wavering as little puppets at the whim of the enemy? “To renounce their own will, their chosen objects of affection or pursuit, requires a sacrifice at which they hesitate and falter and turn back. . . . They desire the good, they make some effort to obtain it; but they do not choose it; they have not a settled purpose to secure it at the cost of all things.”9
In Daniel’s experience, determination was the key (10By God’s grace we “can do all things”! ( .) This power, this strength is seen in the lives of all the heroes of faith—and the life of Daniel is shining at the top of the list.). God’s honor, the glory of His name was dearer to him “than life itself”! Humanity cannot, by the use of the will, exercise self-control and silence the storms of passion in the heart. None can do it. But we can choose to submit our will unto the will of our Holy Father, and then our will becomes omnipotent!
Daniel started well, with the right purpose and an unwavering determination. Would he continue in the same line? “Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (). Have not many others who have started well found later in the battles of life that failure is part of the human plight? Here is the determining factor:
“Character does not come by chance. It is not determined by one outburst of temper, one step in the wrong direction. It is the repetition of the act that causes it to become habit, and molds the character either for good or for evil. Right characters can be formed only bypersevering, untiring effort, by improving every entrusted talent and capability to the glory of God. . . . If the youth today would stand as Daniel stood, they mustput to the stretch every spiritual nerve and muscle. The Lord does not desire that they shall remain novices. He wishes them to reach the highest point of excellence. He desires them to reach the very highest round of the ladder, that they may step from it into the kingdom of God.”11
This desire of God was abundantly fulfilled in Daniel’s life. Untiring effort, the daily improvement of any endowment brought him “from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (12). “AlthoughDaniel was a man of like passions with ourselves, the pen of inspiration presents him as afaultless character. His life is given us as a bright example of what man may become, even in this life, if he will make God his strength and wisely improve the privileges and opportunities within his reach.”
Which is the recipe for a faultless character? What makes this kind of people be so different from the majority? Here is the answer: “The Bible teaches men toact from principle; and whenever we successfully resist evil influence, we are strengthening that principle which has been assailed. The mere possession of talent is no guarantee of usefulness or happiness in life.Right principles are the only basis of true success.”13
The very same thing is boldly revealed in the life of Daniel: “Although [Daniel] was surrounded with distrust and suspicion, and his enemies laid a snare for his life, yet he maintained a serene and cheerful trust in God,never once deviating from principle.”14
“From the history of Daniel we may learn that a strict compliance with the requirements of God will prove a blessing, not only in the future, immortal life but also in the present life.Through religious principles, men may triumphover the temptations of Satan and the devices of wicked men, even though it costs them a great sacrifice. What if Daniel had made a compromise with those heathen rulers and had denied his God? What if, on first entering the court, he had yielded to the pressure of temptation, by eating and drinking as was customary among the Babylonians? That one wrong step would probably have led to others, until, his connection with heaven being severed, he would have been borne away by the power of temptation. But while he clung to God with unwavering, prayerful trust, he could not be forsaken. Thedivine protection is pledged to those who thus seek it, and God cannot forget His word.”15
This means that Christ—the Eternal Rock of Ages—was not only the Foundation; He was the Pillar, the Cornerstone, the Roof, the Beginning and the End. He was the Assurance for a spotless, successful life. By the faithful application of His Word to the daily life, clinging to Him as Daniel did, a believer can be victorious at any stage of his or her life!
This is the wonderful promise for you and for me, even today: “Balanced by religious principle, you may climb to any heightyou please. We would be glad to see you rising to the noble elevation God designs that you shall reach.”16
Communion with the Almighty
How can it be that the children of such an Infinite God are less than conquerors in the battles of life? Or even worse, to be ashamed, defeated, lost? Sadly, this is because God honors His children and respects their liberty in not asking for His help! How sad it is for Him to have to tell them, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” ().
“Daniel was sorely tried; but he overcame becausehe was of a humble and prayerful spirit.”17
“Daniel was a man of prayer, and God gave him wisdom and firmness to resist every influence that conspired to draw him into the snare of intemperance. Even in his youth he was amoral giantin the strength of the Mighty One.”18How does a “moral giant” feel inside? “When I am weak, then am I strong” ( ), widely opening the windows of the heart to the Source of all strength, wisdom, and comfort. He or she has doubt in self and fully trusts the Mighty One. With a humble spirit he or she asks for and receives the light of heaven. The apostle Paul said he would “keep under” his body, “and bring it into subjection” ( ). The power of God is given freely to such a one. A moral giant is a person of prayer, for this is “the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power.”19Prayer was a daily reality in Daniel’s life. Amazingly, even his enemies realized this about him when they plotted to have him thrown in the lions’ den. (Daniel chapter 6.)
“Daniel knew the value of communion with God,”20and he did not conceal it to protect his life from the jealous men. Nothing could cut it off! ( .)
“Through themoral courageof this one man [Daniel] who chose, even in the face of death, to takea right course rather than a politic one, Satan was defeated, and God honored. For the deliverance of Daniel from the power of the lions was a striking evidence that the Being whom he worshiped was the true and living God.”21
For God there is nothing of small importance; so with his beloved child: “The secret of Daniel’s strength was found inhis conscientious attention to what the world would call things of minor importance.”22Neither in his devotion three times a day, nor in the small things or the great affairs of the empire was he deficient to regard any thing as unimportant! His enemies, after careful examination of his entire ministry, couldn’t find any blame, any spot at all!
Daniel became a depositor of God’s Spirit—“an excellent spirit was in him” (23Amazed, the kings observed the heavenly presence in Daniel’s life, “in whom is the spirit of the holy gods”! ( ). “Danielvaluedhishuman capabilities, but he did not trust in them. His trust was in that strength which God has promised to all who will come to Him in humble dependence, relying wholly upon His power.”24). By communion, by beholding, a human being is changed.
Daniel did not selfishly enjoy the privileges of his administrative position, boasting of his merits25while God’s people were in danger. He identified his interest with theirs, his condition with theirs, interceding for himself and for them (Daniel 9). Indeed, this “greatly beloved” ( ) son of man closely reflected the Perfect Model. He constantly shaped his spiritual understanding “with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” ( ), he was “grieved in [his] spirit” and “troubled” in his mind ( ), seeking “for the meaning” ( ) of the things unveiled. And precious were the treasures of light revealed to him for the dark ages that were to come.
Now is our time!
“Claim the promises of God. The Lord will do all for you that He did for Daniel, if you will cooperate with Him as Daniel did. You may be conquerors through humble, earnest trust in your Redeemer.”26
“Stand like Daniel, that faithful statesman, a man whom no temptation could corrupt. Do not disappoint Him who so loved you that He gave His own life to cancel your sins. He says, ‘Without Me ye can do nothing’ (27). Remember this. If you have made mistakes, you certainly gain a victory if you see these mistakes and regard them as beacons of warning. Thus youturn defeat into victory, disappointing the enemy and honoring your Redeemer.”
“‘Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone!’ Have courage to do the right.”28
“Daniel was counted peculiar, and every man who makes God his counselor, and who seeks Him in simplicity of heart, will be counted peculiar by the world. Butthis is the faith we need, this is the experience that we must have.”29
“And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteous-ness as the stars for ever and ever” (). Will you be one of them? The price is paid, the victory gained! The decision, the solemn decision to shine is yours! Shine with living brightness, shine for the Lord! Amen!