The Book of Daniel is one of the most profound and even entertaining books of the Bible. Within its amazing pages are some incredible lessons that we can apply to our lives today.
Chapter 2 in particular is often hurried through for a couple of reasons. First, it’s considered by most Bible scholars to be prophecy that’s already been fulfilled, so those who look to Daniel for its prophetic reasons may skip it as a history lesson. Second, the story focuses on Nebuchadnezzar‘s dream, but there are little nuances that highlight the character of Daniel in ways that are truly amazing.
Let’s take a look at 7 important lessons from the book. There are many others, of course, but these seven are all great places to start as we apply them to our lives today.
1. Be Reasonable with Your Faith
In the first chapter, Daniel and his companions are supposed to eat of the king’s meat and drink the wine of the kingdom. This had two purposes – to keep these special children who would become the wise men of the land as healthy as possible and to indoctrinate them into the customs of their new masters. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself in this manner, knowing that doing so would go against the Torah.
Rather than fight, refuse, or hold a hunger strike, he asked to eat pulse and drink water. His request was denied because the master of the eunuchs did not want them to get weak and feeble in fear of what the king would do to him. Daniel took one more shot, this time with Melzar who was their caretaker.
Daniel 1:11-13 (KJV)
11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
God allowed this to happen. Daniel and his companions were “fairer and fatter in flesh” than those who were eating the king’s meat.
There is no compromise for our faith. Had Melzar not allowed Daniel and his companions to eat the food that God required of them, then it’s very likely that Daniel would have handled the matter more firmly, even risking his own life to remain true to his faith. He would probably have become militant, but he first tried to be reasonable and it worked.
As Christians in such a perverse age, we are often called to take a stand against injustices that go against our faith. Many of us (myself included) often start off militant rather than giving the Holy Spirit a chance to move on our behalf. There are times when we must stand firm, but that should not always be the first option. Daniel accomplished his goal without offending anyone or hurting his own objectives.
2. Pray with Friends
Daniel prayed by himself all the time. However, when faced with death by decree of the king in Chapter 2, Daniel requested time to answer the king’s challenge. The first thing he did with his time was to go to his three companions so they could pray together for help.
There are times to pray alone, but when the need is great, it’s important to pray with others. The verses themselves, listed below, reveal two more important lessons; so many things we can learn are right there in a couple of short verses in Chapter 2.
3. Pray for Ends, not the Means
The prayer of the Jewish boys was done with more wisdom than most Christians and Jews have today. It’s a shame that we don’t get to read the actual prayer, but its short description within two verses in Chapter 2 tell us what we need to know about them:
Daniel 2:17-18 (KJV)
17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:
18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Most people, given the impossible challenge of knowing what a king dreamed and interpreting it for him in order to save their lives, would pray to know the dream and the interpretation so they would not perish. It seems straight forward, right? However, Daniel and his companions did not pray for this because this would be a presumptuous prayer. Instead, they prayed for mercies concerning this secret so they would not perish like the other wise men of the land.
Do you see the subtle difference? As it turned out, God gave Daniel the dream and its interpretation, but God could have easily answered the prayer any way He chose. His “mercies concerning the secret” could have been to change the king’s heart, to open a way for the Daniel and his companions to escape, to send a fireball down to devour the king… you get the point. They prayed with the goal in mind, that they would not be killed like the others. They left the methodology to God.
4. Be Humble, Thankful, and Full of Praise to the Father
It’s amazing that there are so many lessons in a few verses in Chapter 2. Another lesson was taught immediately after they prayed to God to not let them die. The lesson is one that we all need to hear more: Praise God as the wonderful Father that He is.
Daniel 2:19-23 (KJV)
19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.
Obviously, Daniel was extremely happy that he was not going to die thanks to the blessing he received from his Father and was quick to return that blessing in the best way he had available to him at that moment: praise. Then, once he was presenting to the king what the Lord had shown him, he gave us another important lesson…
5. Take No Credit for the Lord’s Works
Daniel could have very easily told the king that he was given a vision by God because he was special. He could have told the king that he was the smartest man in the world and the king would have believed him once he revealed the dream. He could have said that he was holy and blessed and that’s why God gave him the vision. He could have taken credit in any way that he chose. Instead, he chose to take no credit at all.
Daniel 2:21-28 (KJV)
27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;
28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
Human ego is a hard thing to put down. When good things happen to us, when we’re able to accomplish things that others cannot, or when we build things that are great, we often take credit. Sure, we might thank God for the blessing, the talent, the knowledge, the luck, the opportunity, or anything else, but we often do not realize or acknowledge that all things happen by the Grace of God. King Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson the hard way in Chapter 4.
6. Have Courage to Tell the Hard Truths
In three different instances, courage was required to deliver a harsh message to a king. First, the three companions spoke boldly in the face of death.
Daniel 3:16-18 (KJV)
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
They knew that what they were saying was going to get them thrown into a fiery furnace, but they said it anyway. This is an important lesson, one that every believer must prepare themselves for if they are ever faced with death over their faith.
As a mini-lesson, notice that they did not declare that God would save them. They would not presume to declare what God was going to do. They simply declared that God was able to deliver them from the furnace and that he would certainly deliver them from the king’s hand. Either way – had they been saved by a Son of God or had they burned – they would have been delivered from the king’s hand.
In Chapter 4, the king had a dream that he told to his wise men. In Chapter 2, they could not deliver an interpretation because they did not know the dream. This time, the king told them the dream, and as it says in verse 7, “they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.”
The meaning of the dream itself was actually pretty obvious, but the wise men did not make it known to him. Notice that it did not say that they could not make it known. Chances are, they knew exactly what it meant but because it spoke of bad tidings for the king, they didn’t want to be the ones delivering the bad news. They were afraid.
Daniel was afraid as well.
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.
He overcame his fear and revealed a terrible fate for the king. It wasn’t easy. he hesitated for a long time, perhaps building up the courage. After all, it isn’t easy to tell someone that they’re going to be eating grass and living with animals because of their evil doings.
More ill tidings were put to Daniel to deliver to a king in Chapter 5. This time, Daniel didn’t hesitate at all. In fact, he used the opportunity to deliver the message of the king’s death that night to chastise him for defiling the ornaments of God’s people.
7. Ask Forgiveness for Your People
This is arguably the most controversial of the lessons taught through the Book of Daniel. In Chapter 9:3-19, Daniel asks for forgiveness for his people. He does not make excuses. He acknowledges their shortcomings, their sins, and their betrayals. He does not ask for anything that they deserve but rather forgiveness for the Lord’s sake as they are His children and Jerusalem is His city.
I won’t put in the whole prayer, but please take the time to read it. Instead, I’ll focus on the final verse of the prayer:
Daniel 9:19 (KJV)
19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
As Moses once did, here Daniel asks the Lord to forgive His people for His sake, not theirs.
We are viewed as individuals, of course, but we are also viewed as nations. It is important that we do pray for a turning away from sin. We are in a time when just about every country is faced with challenges with faith. In America, we contend with a turning away from our foundation of belief. Abortion, gay marriage, and the silencing of Biblical doctrines for the sake of diversity and tolerance are just some of our country’s sins.
In other places such as parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, being a Christian can bring persecution and even death. There are challenges that the enemy has placed before all of is in one form or another. It is too much for anyone to fight alone. We must pray for our Lord to forgive us and help us fight the good fight.
The entire book is wonderful on so many levels. Yes, there are incredible lessons for everyone to hear, but there are also prophecies and messages that God wanted us to know. If you’ve never done a thorough reading of Daniel, now is the time to do it.