Many years ago, a young Hebrew boy trudged over a dusty road under the scorching sun, driven on by soldiers speaking a language he would one day learn but did not yet understand. He was accompanied by several thousand other captives, forced out of their homes, forced to leave their loved ones, forced to watch unspeakable horrors, never again to return. This young Hebrew boy was unique, and while many didn’t seem to notice, others did, namely, his captors. Upon his arrival in the city of his nation’s conquerors, he along with a handful of others were chosen to learn the language and culture of that city, in order to serve the most powerful man in the world at that time.
Needless to say, this young boy and his companions were left with some tough questions. How could they live out their faith in a brand new, strange, pluralistic context, far away from their ancestors, their temple, and people who held their values? Would they reject everything foreign and fight against it, choosing not to submit to their new authorities, or would they reject the God who had appeared to abandon them along with their countrymen? In fact, they would do neither, because through these circumstances they came to understand their God in a far greater way.
This young boy would go on to learn from his captors, but instead of forgetting about the God of his fathers and his commands, he would grow more dependant upon Him, and he would find that although God had abandoned his city He still loved and cared for his own. Eventually, that boy would grow into a man who would serve kings, and he would prove to be a faithful and trustworthy servant in everything he was asked.
Daniel, the boy’s Hebrew name, or Belteshazzar, as he came to be called in captivity, would go on to interpret dreams, to calm tyrants, to converse with angels, to sleep with lions, and to predict world history. He would inspire others to love and respect the God he served, to serve their masters faithfully, yet to stand quietly for their God and his commands, even if it meant they would be the only ones left standing.
Daniel’s God would use Daniel and his friends to reveal Himself to world leaders. The kings of that age, arrogant and powerful as they were, came to realize that it was Daniel’s God who gave them their power. These ancient kings of Babylon and Persia humbled themselves before Daniel’s God and sent decrees throughout the world stating that the God of Daniel was alone above all things. Daniel’s God used Daniel to spread his fame throughout the nations, and He continues to do so even now. Daniel’s detailed prophecies now read like a history book, affirming that God is who He said He is- in control. Although, as Daniel writes, God will be challenged, He will not be overthrown.
Perhaps the most amazing of Daniel’s prophesies came as a result of Daniel fulfilling prophesy himself. Over a thousand years before, God spoke through his prophet Moses to give his nation rules to live by. He promised them blessing if they lived accordingly, and cursing if they lived in contrast to his laws. He then showed us our true nature by stating that not if but when that nation disobeyed his commands, he would lead them into captivity. But then, He showed us His nature, by promising that when his people acknowledged their sin and repented before him, he would remember the covenant that he made not with Moses, but with Abraham, the promise that through Abraham’s descendant He would bless the world. While in captivity, Daniel repented of the sins of his people, and God answered by predicting the time when the Promise would be fulfilled, and something Daniel did not yet understand, be crucified for the sins of the world.
In Daniel, we see someone who lived in extremely difficult times, someone who witnessed the collapse of the culture around him, who was taken against his will to learn a culture foreign to him, but yet learned it well and served his masters and his God with honor and distinction. And although he may not have realized it, he was very precious to God.
“How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.” Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”-Daniel 10:17,18