Now if you were to google ‘10 ridiculous film mistakes’ you’d see that Braveheart appears at number 6. Appalled, you say to me “what could possibly be wrong with the film Braveheart?!” Well, unfortunately for Mel Gibson and co it appears that despite being set in the 13th century, during one of the battle scenes a white Ford Transit van appears in the background by accident.
If Mel Gibson or any other director were to take on the task of directing Daniel chapter 6, I wonder if they would have an issue with the cut to the scene of verse 18? We have all the suspense of the preceding scene whereby Daniel is thrown into the den, the stone rolled over and sealed with the King’s signet ring and then almost bizarrely we’re taken to the King’s palace. What about Daniel? Should the scene not pan down, past the stone to show us Daniel’s encounter with a bunch of hungry lions? Who cares about the King, we want to see some action!
Well it seems like the camera is cut to the King’s palace to show his anxiety and despair at the situation he could do nothing about. Perhaps, by the story not returning to the Lions’ Den, God is telling us that what happened in the den wasn’t the most important thing. What was the most important thing was Daniel’s trust and faith in his God – whether dead or alive. No matter what the circumstances or the outcome, Daniel’s faith was strong, firm and steadfast in the Living God!
The decree of Darius at the end of the chapter is the climax of the story, made in response to the great wonders he has seen the living, powerful and active God perform. Now, a great earthly King acknowledges the superior greatness of God through Daniel’s faithfulness and trust.
Verse 26 “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”
Yet what is our response to this passage?
- God’s faithfulness to us should be the catalyst for us remaining faithful to Him.
- We are to remain faithful to God no matter what the cost, or the circumstance. No matter how tempted we feel.
Let’s try especially hard this week to follow the example of Daniel and be prepared to stand for our convictions and be unashamed of the gospel wherever we find ourselves.
Have you ever found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time? As we continue our series on the book of Daniel and come to one of the most famous passages, it would seem at first glance that Daniel is in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, as we’ve learnt, God was completely in control and in fact Daniel was right where God wanted him at the start of chapter 6 – the right man, in the right place, at the right time.
Read Daniel 6.
This chapter takes place during the days of the Medo-Persian Empire which had just conquered the great Babylonian Empire. This was another empire to rise and eventually fall, just like all the others. Yet Daniel’s life and witness in every empire he found himself in was exemplary as he displayed the exceptional qualities listed. How much trust, integrity and honesty do we show in the situations we find ourselves in?
It’s interesting that, instead of compromising, he was able to confront difficult situations with truth and actually bring about change. We have an excellent example in Daniel of how to honour God in a culture contrary to our beliefs and maintain integrity in the long term – Daniel was at least 82 years old by the way!
It’s so often the case that, when qualities like those of Daniel are shown, they can breed jealousy and discontentment amongst others. This jealously is what led the satraps (what the Persians called their local governors) to come up with their cunning plan to get rid of Daniel.
Daniel’s response to the decree of the King is quite striking – John Piper puts it like this: “Daniel would rather pray than save his life. Not praying was a worse prospect to Daniel than being eaten by lions. That is a radical commitment to prayer.” Doesn’t that stop you right in your tracks and challenge you as to your own attitude towards prayer? More on that on another day…
So Daniel finds himself thrown into the den – completely helpless and at the mercy of some seriously hungry lions (lions back then were intentionally starved for the very purpose of executing people). Daniel didn’t want to be in there, nor did the King want Daniel to be thrown in, and the narrative is at pains to show us just how hopeless his situation was. Maybe you feel like you’re in a similar, inescapable position?
Rest assured, God has a master plan and is sovereign over all. On this occasion (although not every occasion) it was part of God’s plan that Daniel would be delivered from the mouths of lions; God did what Darius and Daniel could not do.
You see, when it comes to God, His hands are never tied and His power can never be overcome! We’re reminded early on in chapter 4 that “No one can hold back his hand…” The same God who raised his Son from the dead (the seemingly most hopeless situation!) is at work in us today – so take heart and be encouraged that God is in control and ask for greater faith!
A new King is now on the throne, Nebuchadnezzar has been dead for 27 years and Daniel is now an old man in his eighties. Belshazzar is now King and has thrown a huge banquet. During this evening, he calls for the items taken from the temple during the exile, and he serves wine in them. This is his way of showing that he is greater than the God of Israel, that he can deﬁle these objects without consequence. Do we deep down think we are greater than God?
Almost immediately he is proved wrong, as a hand appears and writes on the wall. Belshazzar goes from arrogance to terror, he is humbled by God for his act of deﬁance. Are there times that we defy God?
Belshazzar then calls for all his magicians to read the writing, but none can. In this, Daniel is completely forgotten, his wisdom has not been remembered. How often do we find that people tend to simply ignore and forget God?
Daniel then interprets the writing, it is a judgement from God against Belshazzar for his rebellion against Him. Belshazzar is going to be destroyed and his kingdom will fall. The same is true for those who don’t believe today. There is judgement if there isn’t faith. Do we tend to forget the severity of God’s judgement? Would being more aware of this judgement change how we talk to those around us?
God’s kingdom outlives Babylon, just as was predicted.
Let’s pray now over what we’ve read these last few days,
Say sorry for sometimes thinking we are greater than God and thinking we know best.
Thank Jesus that through him, our writing has been wiped away. We no longer have sin against us.
Pray that we would be more courageous at sharing the good news about Jesus to our friends. Maybe pick one person that today you’re going to talk to about your faith.
George Bernard Shaw, a famous writer, shares a story about himself in his early London days. He tells of an evening when he was present at a dinner party where the conversation turned to the existence of God. Most - if not all - were atheists or at least agnostics but Shaw, to prove that God did not exist, there and then invited God to strike him dead at the stroke of midnight.
With some satisfaction, he records that as midnight approached the other guests one by one all found a reason to leave the party leaving him alone at midnight. Perhaps they thought they might become ‘collateral damage’, if God did indeed strike him down. In the event, midnight passed without event. Of course, they need not have left. They were safe there or anywhere else – for the time being.
But the Bible does speak of a final accountability. A final judgement to come, at the end of our days, before the inescapable justice of God. Only God knows the number of days appointed for any life.
Psalm 90 says ‘So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.’ Even if we do not number our days, God will.
We’ve read what is written on Belshazzar’s wall, in chapter 5 (take another read to remind yourself), but consider this,
What is written on your wall?
How is your life weighed by God? Do we let God control every aspect of our life?
Will we see the written warning on our wall, and will we turn to Jesus for grace and forgiveness?
How does this chapter make you thankful for Jesus?
Well if you’re a Christian reading this, we can be reassured that Jesus wipes our boards clean. He takes away our sins and makes our hearts pure. Through Jesus are we welcomed into the kingdom of heaven freely, and like Daniel we can look forward to the day we meet our sovereign God.
Every year 62,000 guests are hosted by the royal family at Buckingham Palace through state banquets, garden parties, private audiences, receptions, and people receiving honours. Visitors get a glimpse of just what it takes to transform the palace's ballroom into a dining room fit for royalty.
Daniel 5 brings us to a very different banquet held by a greatly contrasting ruler, King Belshazzar. Let’s open Daniel chapter 5, as the doors are thrown open into his banquet.
All is not well. Here we see Belshazzar, surrounded by an enemy army. Enemies who had won a battle nearby, and must by now be pretty much at the city gates. We find Belshazzar in his palace, ignoring the threat and finding refuge in drunkenness and a show of kingly splendour.
But there’s a far more serious matter at hand. Did you pick that up in the reading?
In an act of defiance against God, Belshazzar calls for the gold and silver goblets that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem 65 years previous. As they drank the wine in these goblets, they praised other gods.
Belshazzar’s attitude was one of defiance. We can imagine him shaking his fist and exclaiming ‘The God of Israel has no power over me!’ Here was a king who was proud and dismissive.
The thought of this ruler dismissing God with easy contempt might remind us of many others who do the same thing, even in our own day. Those who don’t take him seriously, and certainly don’t take seriously anyone who claims to follow God and live their life for him. I’m sure you are familiar with the mocking tone that I’m referring to. You can hear it from a classmate or even from a celebrity.
As Belshazzar was busy praising other gods, the God of Israel whom Belshazzar had dismissed communicated. The LORD intervened.
So Daniel re-appears on the scene. After so many years, Daniel was brought back into the royal court and into the limelight.
It is a stinging rebuke that Daniel delivers. He tells Belshazzar that he has:
• Not humbled himself
• Not learned the lessons from previous generations
• Used ‘holy’ items for unholy purposes
• Praised false gods
We must learn from Belshazzar. Is there one or more of those statements that the Holy Spirit, right now, is pointing out in your life, that needs to change too? Think over this today.
A few years back, just after a certain Bishop of Durham had denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, a bolt of lightening struck the cathedral causing severe damage to one part. The popular press of course and many of their readers became instant believers – for a day or so – enjoying the thought that it was no co-incidence. ‘It’s a judgement’ they cried! Others took a longer and cooler look at it all and came to a different conclusion pointing out that not nearly enough lightening bolts hit the right people in life to make a theology out of this one.
On this occasion recorded in Daniel 4, however, it is indeed a judgement, clear, fearsome, and direct. For seven years we have a bereft Babylon and a great man who is reduced to the indignity of living like an animal.
For, as we saw yesterday, our God is a God who humbles the proud and exalt the humble. We see an example of this in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar - he is brought very low before he acknowledges God.
Sometimes it can seem to us that there are powers at work in our lives and in our world over which God appears powerless. Yet God has declared that his name will be great among the nations and that every knee will one day bow to acknowledge that he alone is God.
As we reflect further on Daniel 4 today, some questions for reflection/journaling:
Read: Daniel 4
Q. Do you think that Nebuchadnezzar is a true believer by the end of this chapter?
Q. What do the events of this chapter tell us about human nature?
Q. What do we learn about God's judgement?
Q. How do these events encourage us to trust, and commit ourselves, to God?
There have always been and there will always be staggering examples of human arrogance. Yet, as we will see in our passage in Daniel today, our God is a God who exalts the humble and humbles the proud.
Read: Daniel 4
King Nebuchadnezzar had it all - money, fame and power - he had everything and needed nothing.
Yet his dreams were causing him problems again. We've seen this already back in chapter 2, haven't we? Here again, he can't sleep. Here again Daniel enters the scene.
Daniel offers Nebuchadnezzar the meaning behind his dream, yet Nebuchadnezzar is having none of it. His success, his fame, his power - it is all down to his own brilliance. So he says,
“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (v30)
Yet no sooner have the words left his lips he hears the voice of God and succumbs to a sudden and very serious episode of mental illness.
It is only near the end of his life that the penny finally drops. At last Nebuchadnezzar realises there is one greater than he. One to whom he owes all of his fame, power and success. There is a God who is sovereign over it all.
May we take time today to remember who it is who has given us all of the good things we enjoy in this life and to whom we owe our worship. For as we look in the mirror we are not to say, "I believe in myself" but rather "I believe in a God who humbles the proud and exalts the humble."
His dominion is an eternal dominion and his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
When was the last time you were asked if you were a Christian? How did you respond? Did you back away from the conversation and try to change the subject or did you proudly stand up for your faith?
Over the last two days we’ve been reading Daniel 3, and we’ve seen how we firstly need to be aware of other idols in our lives and make sure that we prioritise God over all else. Secondly, we need to stand firm in times of trial and pray that God will never leave our side.
Like Daniel we need to be confident in our sovereign God. Let’s pray now:
Thank God that he is the one true God that loves us and will stand with us in hard times.
Ask for forgiveness when we worship other idols, and God becomes a long way down our list of priorities.
Pray that like Daniel we can boldly proclaim our faith to our friends and family.
Yesterday we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace in Daniel 3, maybe take a second to read back over it. We saw a tremendous display of courageous faith from these three.
If you’re honest with yourself do you find yourself thinking “My faith – or lack of it – wouldn’t make me brave enough to do that?”
How many of us, in reality, think twice before admitting we’re a Christian if there’s the slightest possibility of rejection or penalty?
I think this story provides us with a good opportunity to ask ourselves what true biblical faith is, and is not, and to check that we’ve got our focus right.
The longer I go on as a Christian, the more aware I become that it’s God who keeps me going and growing in faith and not my will or self-discipline. Wouldn’t it be amazing if in our prayers, we prayed that God would increase our faith in times of trials and then help us to stand firm in him? It’s good to cry out, as the disciples do in Luke 17:4: “Increase our faith.” We all need God’s help.
There was a fourth figure in the furnace in this story, one providing God’s presence and protection. This is the main message of this chapter. The main point isn’t about any promise of miraculous rescue, but rather it is about the promise of the strengthening presence of God in times of trial.
In your school, or university, or workplace you will likely experience a degree of rejection if you consistently follow Jesus. Maybe not a fiery furnace, but these are difficult experiences nonetheless. But God will be with you.
Those who follow Christ in this world – who allow their love for Jesus to shape their decisions and priorities will have struggles of faith in this life. But the perfect king and perfect saviour will keep his promise to comfort and enable us to stand, will cover us with grace when we fail and ultimately will guide us to eternal life.
Have a think about where your fiery furnace is.
Do you pray that God will help you stand firm in this situation?
One of the popular ideas we hear nowadays is about ‘leaving a legacy’. Whether it’s the legacy after a spectacular event such as the Olympics, or the legacy of an outgoing government or a politician, it’s something that significant people expend much time and effort on. Leaving their legacy, making their mark upon history. Sometimes very positively, sometimes not so.
Let’s read Chapter 3 of Daniel and meet King Nebuchadnezzar once more, a very significant leader in the ancient near east. He too wanted to make his mark.
Neb was reminded that human kingdoms come and go, and as such Neb suddenly becomes very concerned about the strength and unity of his kingdom. He didn’t want his kingdom to fall and be crushed.
Neb planned to cement his kingdom together by forcing all people to bow down before the image he’d built. If they did not, there would be fatal consequences. But surely, no one would put themselves in that position, would they?
The big point here is that this King is encouraging the worship of something other than God – creator of the earth and everything in it. And the challenge to us is to be more aware of the things that we choose to worship instead of worshipping God. So, here’s a question to think over: what are our idols?
In the New Testament idolatry is not just a failure to obey God by turning to the worship of a created object or man-made god – it is anything that causes us to set our hearts on something besides God. Idolatry is anything that causes us to think less about God. The most common idols, certainly in Western society are pride, money, popularity, body image, hobbies, and the like. But even if we know this, it can be difficult to recognise the idols in our own lives that keep us from worshipping God with all our hearts. As with many negative things – it’s just so much easier to recognize them in other people!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had refused to bow down before this golden image. To bow down to it would be to break the commandments God had given Israel to live by –commands that explicitly stated:
Their mind was made up, they would obey their God. Put yourself in their position for a moment. You know the consequences are clear. Wouldn’t it be easier to just follow the crowd on this occasion? Is this really worth risking your life for?
For these three, the issue was not what was best for their safety or prosperity. Their concern was not for their comfort or convenience. Their concern was doing what was obedient to God. They had a faith that was prepared to face the furnace. Does yours?