M I G H T Y  I N  S P I R I T

Daniel the prophet

         It is too simplistic to allow the importance of Daniel's story to be capsuled within the pages of a children's book. Daniel in the lion's den—like Daniel's description of the deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—is a spectacular and colorful account. But when you get down to the fundamentals, what stands out is that a sovereign God consistently and swiftly reacts to the earnest prayers of a faithful servant.
          Daniel in the lion's den is recorded in chapter six of one of the Bible's most interesting books. Only twelve chapters, it details the life and prophecies of one of God's most trusted charges. It includes more fulfilled prophecy than any other book in the Bible and is sanctioned as authentic by Christ Himself. (Matthew 24:15)
          God so blessed Daniel that the prophet not only excelled in earthly kingdoms because of his discernment of dreams and signs, but he also lay much of the prophetic foundation upon which the book of Revelation builds. Daniel prophesied the coming of everyone from Christ to Alexander the Great to Cleopatra. Daniel's famous "seventieth week" describes the ancestry, rise, and fall of the antichrist, and the glorious Second Coming of Christ.
          As God often does, He made great that which was small. Daniel was of royal lineage but only about sixteen years old when Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and carried the Jews into captivity. Along with his three aforementioned friends, Daniel was favored first by God and then by Nebuchadnezzar.
          Daniel and his cohorts are described in chapter one as good-looking and without blemish, "showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge." Daniel, a Jew, would go on to become prime minister of Babylon and work for at least three kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. His inspired work left Nebuchadnezzar and Darius proclaiming Daniel's God to be living and true.
          It was Darius who was tricked by Daniel's rivals into signing a decree banning for one month any petition to a god or man except Darius. Daniel ignored the edict. His fear of God far outdistanced his fear of men. As he always did three times a day, Daniel opened his windows toward Jerusalem, where he knew the Spirit of God had dwelled in Solomon's temple, and he prayed as all of us should.
          "He might have compromised his integrity by ceasing to pray to God during the month the decree was in effect—or by praying privately, perhaps in the night, when no one could see him worshiping at his window," writes Gleason Archer in The Expositor's Bible Commentary. "To rationalize such compromises to preserve his role in government would have been easy. But Daniel could not compromise. For him the issue was whether he was going to please man or obey God."
          God saved the lions' appetite for Daniel's rivals, teaching us the power of prayer and faith that made Daniel so completely mighty in spirit. Daniel provided an example by responding to the enemy's false accusations with uncompromising faith and trust in God. In turn, God used Daniel to show us how to answer our enemies: let Him deal with them.
          Daniel also demonstrates how to pray. Daniel 9:2 records the prophet's realization from reading the book of Jeremiah. He discovered that the Babylonian captivity would last only 70 years. Thus, the end was near. So Daniel returned to his knees and exhibited powerful prayer in verses 4-19.
         "Various aspects of the passage give rich instruction regarding prayer," writes scholar John MacArthur in his study Bible. "True prayer is: in response to the Word (v. 2), characterized by fervency (v. 3) and self-denial (v. 4), identified unselfishly with God's people (v. 5), strengthened by confession (vv. 5-15), dependent on God's character (vv. 4,7,9,15), and has as its goal God's glory (vv. 16-19)."
          So effectual is such prayer that God sent the angel Gabriel with His answer even before Daniel had completed his supplication. Today, you can be sure that though God has revealed no cataclysmic prophecy to you, or helped you interpret a king's dream, He is there for you. The book of Daniel is nothing if not an affirmation of the utter sovereignty of our God. He sees all, knows all, and controls all, and He loves you enough to make it all work together for your good. (Romans 8:28)
         To find God during your hardship, go to the portal Daniel knew best. Go to your knees. Model your prayer after Daniel's and model your life after Daniel 11:32: "The people who know their God will display strength and take action."