The Fear of Daniel

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Daniel was an interesting Bible character. He was a young man of royal blood when he was taken into exile to Babylon, years before Jerusalem finally fell. It's very possible he was a eunuch (Daniel 1:8). He served as an extremely high-ranking advisor for Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar of Babylon, and then for Darius and (possibly) Cyrus of the Medes. God have him extraordinary visions of the future and the ability to interpret dreams and visions of others. Some of these visions were fulfilled by such figures as Alexander the Great, while others are still in our future.

There are some moments in Daniel's life that really stand out to me; that show the kind of man he was.

In chapter one, we see Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, challenging Nebuchadnezzar's authority right off the bat. In their zeal to avoid any food that wasn't kosher, they approach their supervisor and issue a challenge — let us eat vegetables and grains and drink water for ten days and see how we fare compared to the others in the group who eat meat and wine.

Chapter two relates the story of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great statue. No wise man or sage can interpret it, so Nebuchadnezzar demands that all the "magicians, enchanters, and sorcerers" be killed. Before the order can be carried out, however, Daniel boldly requests an audience so he can not only interpret the dream, but describe what it was before Nebuchadnezzar repeats it.

Nebuchadnezzar's second dream in chapter three was more immediate and more dangerous for Daniel to interpret. In a time when it was worth your life to appear sad in the king's presence (Nehemiah 1:2), Daniel had to tell the king he would spend quality time believing he was a cow. A rather disheveled cow. For seven years. But Daniel's concern wasn't for his own life, it was grief that his king, pagan though he was, would have to experience such humiliation.

In chapter 5, Belshazzar ruled Babylon while his father, Nabonidus, dedicated his efforts to worshiping the moon god. While Belshazzar and his crew were partying, a hand appeared, writing words on the wall. Although Belshazzar could read the words, he didn't understand the symbolic importance. Daniel not only told him he was about to be conquered by the Medes, he did it with a measure of distain Belshazzar couldn't have helped but to feel.

Belshazzar was killed by the Medes that night. New king Darius not only continued Daniel's service, he made him one of three high officials over all the land. It was Darius, in chapter 6, who was tricked into punishing Daniel's faithful prayer to God with a night with the lions. Daniel's reaction isn't recorded other than "he trusted in his God" (Daniel 6:23).

Three kings. Several incredibly high political positions. At least five situations that could have been his death. If he was a eunuch, then no hormonally-driven male bravado. And as far as we can tell, no fear for his life.

But that doesn't mean Daniel didn't show fear. The last half of Daniel is spent on several visions he received, starting in the reign of Belshazzar. Some interesting excerpts:
As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me...As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart. Daniel 7:15; 28

And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I arose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. Daniel 8:27

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks...So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Daniel 10:1-2, 8

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. Daniel 10:10
And then there's chapter 9. It's theorized that Daniel was such a good scholar that the wise men used his writings and calculations to determine when and where Jesus would be born. He was at least good enough to be able to use Jeremiah's prophecies to know when it was time for the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Although it's not recorded that he, himself, ever returned, and although God had unconditionally promised Jeremiah the Jews would return, Daniel still addressed the issue. Prayer, pleas, sackcloth and ashes. He confessed his sins, and then he confessed the sins of the people of Judah. There was no pride hindering his prayers; he admitted the Babylonian exile was just, and then asked God to return the people to Jerusalem and the Temple God had chosen for them to worship in.

All to say, Daniel knew where to put his fear. He didn't fear foreign kings. Some he resented and some he respected, but he boldly approached them all without hesitation. God was a different matter. A word from God would make him sick. A theophany would make him pass out.

We really don't live like this. Christians today trivialize the holiness of God and fear the men He made. Daniel's fear (both afraid-fear and respect-fear) led him to challenge human kings (and lions) with a powerful perspective. We're not told why he wasn't at the fiery furnace with Rack, Shack, and Benny, but he lived their theme:
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:17-18
Today we are faced with drought, recessions, fear-mongering politicians, and rising gas prices. Daniel's life stands as a great conviction for those of us who fear the gods of the world.

Image Credit: Briton Reviere; "Daniel in the Lions Den"; 1892; Public Domain

TagsBiblical-Truth Christian-Life Hardships

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Published 4-20-15