July 6, 2022
Most people know Daniel in the Bible from the story of the lions’ den. The account of that event takes place in the 6th chapter of the book, when Daniel was around 70-years old. He had spent his entire life up until this point working in the courts of Babylon. When the Medo-Persian empire captured Babylon and took over, they appointed tax collectors/administrators to run their newly acquired territory. Daniel naturally rose to the top of the ranks because he was experienced, hard working, willing to say/do hard things in service of the king, and honest. Daniel proved to be the sort of man who would not steal or handle his business dishonestly. The success that came with these qualities prompted his coworkers to plot to destroy Daniel. Most likely, they were opposed to his prominence because they were crooked and skimming from the taxes they collected. Daniel would end their gravy train. Their first attempt at destroying Daniel involved looking for dirt on him, but the problem was that there was no dirt to find. Their second attack involved making it illegal to pray to anyone apart from the king himself. Daniel didn’t go out in public to protest or announce that he was being persecuted. Instead, he went home to pray about it as soon as he heard that the law was passed. This led to his arrest, being tossed in the lions’ den, and his miraculous deliverance.
There are some valuable sessions for us today in this account. We aren’t likely to face death for our beliefs or be persecuted for prayer. However, that does not negate the value of being the sort of person who stands for their faith, who is wise in doing so, and is honest in all things. Daniel wound up in the position he was in because he was a man of great qualities. A great man, if you will. These things didn’t just happen. Rather, they came about as a result of lifelong training and effort that transformed him into a hero of sorts.
The first example of this training we see is when Daniel refuses to eat from the king’s table during his education as a court official. He refused to eat meat that wasn’t in harmony with God’s laws for Jews. Specifically, he refused the most luxurious meals in the world, risked execution for insulting the king, and made himself stand out as a weirdo with his peers. This is a big deal for several reasons, but not least of which was that no one was watching him. No one would know if he cheated. The food laws existed to remind the Jews that they were set apart and that they weren’t like the rest of the world. They needed to stay separate and live by a higher standard. Every day, Daniel had a reminder of who he was. He never forgot his identity. In terms of our lives: if we know who and what we are and never forget it, we can measure our actions and words against that truth.
Second, he maintained integrity over little things. Even if he could get away with it, he did not compromise. He could have eaten like a king, living in luxury. Instead, he chose discomfort and integrity. We can emulate this by identifying things that are important for our moral and spiritual development. Taking time daily to invest in small, perhaps uncomfortable, ways trains us to be better. Little things over the long term change our hearts and souls, teaching us to be people of integrity.
Finally, Daniel’s response to the new law demonstrates a path to wisdom few choose in our day and age. When faced with a threat, he went home immediately to pray and seek God’s direction. This is out of the norm for our world. We often look to our political party, Facebook, our emotional response, or something else for direction. We resort to protest, government intervention, or things we can do by our own power to deal with problems. Instead, Daniel looked for God to solve his problem and protect him. This was a lifelong pattern in little things as well as big things. Daniel trained to do the right thing throughout his life becuase he turned to God whenever crisis happened.
We can pattern our lives to train for the unexpected moments. Many people carry a concealed weapon and train daily to use it without thinking. A gun, quick drawing, and marksmanship can only save our lives. Spiritual training can save our souls and fill our lives with integrity and courage.