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Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them.
We often think that since God is supreme nothing can happen without His approval. That isn’t what the Bible teaches. In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter said, “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God doesn’t want people to perish but they are. Jesus said,
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13).
Many people are lost, yet God’s desire is for them all to be saved. Clearly people have a choice in destiny and eternity, just like us when others make decisions that impact us negatively. It sure seems as though Daniel could have surrendered his heart and his faith in this situation, doesn’t it? He had done nothing wrong yet this all-powerful king who had a dream that disturbed him (2:1) and on a whim decreed that all the “wise men” or counselors should be killed, including Daniel and his friends. Instead of panicking or assuming the worst, which I am pretty sure most of us would have done, Daniel went to his house, got his friends and prayed.
Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
They turned to God when the king’s decree impacted them wrongly. When they did, they created the possibility for God to rule and reign over their situation, to move personally and intimately with them. They found God’s plans for them to be as Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 29:11;
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Their faith unlocked the door for this wicked king to see the sovereign hand of God in his own circumstances, in his own situation and that opened the door for God to move Daniel and his friends into places of influence and power, to bring life and hope to perishing people.
But what if they wouldn’t have prayed? What if they wouldn’t have believed God was good and moving with power in their circumstances because they were being impacted in such a negative way? We will never know but I am certain of this, you and I are feeling the pressure of others decisions today and what we do with that pressure will determine how much Jesus can move in our situations with power. Stop and pray, believe, don’t give up or give in to despair because of decisions others around you are making. Remember God is still in control.
“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).
Prayer – Father, today I will have opportunities to impact others. I pray Holy Spirit you will empower me and remind me not to give in to unbelief and discouragement but to pray and press through to see You move with power.
Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them.
There are times in all of our lives that other people’s decisions impact us, decisions we don’t agree with and wish would go away. But they impact us whether we like it or not, whether we deserve it or not and whether we are prepared for them or not. We often grow weary of others making decisions that impact us. Whether it is a parent, a boss or a politician who decrees their latest law is really for our benefit. It is times like these that we can quickly and easily lose sight of the over-arching hand of our heavenly Father. Is God really good and is He in control? Often, at times like these I can quickly doubt it. I wonder how a good God could let someone who doesn’t know me impact me in such a negative way. Why isn’t He guarding me and protecting me?
The sovereignty of God is an immense and daunting prospect for some of us to even consider. How could He be in charge of every circumstance and every situation going on throughout the earth all at the same time? And how could He actually personally care for individuals who are impacted by the decisions others make that blow them up?
Make no mistake the Bible is clear that God rules over His kingdom. Jesus told us to pray for His Kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, but why don’t I feel that when other’s decisions impact my journey? Sometimes we lose sight of what God is doing, particularly when it impacts us in a negative way. Rather than believing the best, believing beyond myself, I give into despair and lose faith, but the Bible teaches God is using everything for good when we trust Him.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
God being sovereign doesn’t mean life won’t be tough down here. It doesn’t mean others won’t make decisions that impact my life in a negative way. The dictionary defines “sovereign” as, “1. Paramount; supreme. 2. Having supreme rank or power. 3. Independent: a sovereign state. 4. Excellent.” None of these definitions mean that God controls everything. Cleary, He gives us a choice to participate or not. That is why Jesus said, “Pray for His kingdom to come.” That is exactly what Daniel and his friends did here. Rather than despair and fall into depression surrendering to the kings decree they prayed for God to move in the decree, in the negative decision impacting them and He did.
He will do the same for us today if we will run to Him when life gets hard.
Prayer – Father, remind me today, that when others negatively impact me, not to give into their decision but rather to pray; to believe You can work in me and my destiny in spite of their decision.
“Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
One of the things that made Daniel an amazing man and leader was his disposition, his kindness under fire. Even when he was being tested he was nice! I am not usually nice when I am being tested, how about you? It is easy to get grumpy and grouchy, sore and mean when we are being tested. Tests can try your patience. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.”
When we are being tested it is always easiest to focus on getting through the test, the struggle, just getting it over with, but Daniel made the journey count. Even in the fire he was nice. That is often God’s goal with us in tests, not the test itself, and not even getting through it, but how we handle the journey. Do we grow angry and sore? Do we get impatient and edgy? Or do we settle into the hand of God and rest in the test? Daniel did. He trusted God’s best was there for the taking if he would just journey with Him.
Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” That is what God is after in the test; character that grows in the midst of suffering which gives birth to perseverance which brings forth hope. Hope is what it takes to live and Daniel could have easily had none in his circumstances. He was a slave in Babylon, a dark, dark place, but Daniel thrived there with the hope he gleaned from the tests he passed when he kept his thoughtfulness intact by not reacting to the test but by responding to the Spirit.
When I am tested it can quickly turn to fear, confusion, and frustration if I don’t stop and pray. If I am not still and if I don’t take the time to quiet my heart I will lose my attitude. Notice Daniel didn’t. He always spoke thoughtfully even asking his overseer to “Please test us.” The please word is very revealing of Daniel’s heart. You see this attitude over and over in Daniel, a kindness that contradicts his circumstances. This is built in a heart that has surrendered to Jesus; built by the power of His Spirit brooding over us and softening us in the test. I know at times it seems impossible but nothing is impossible with God! Remember we are all going to be tested. The test is not what counts, but rather how we respond in the test.
Prayer – Father, today teach me to yield to You in the test. I need to constantly be reminded that You are for me and that You love me even in the test. I pray for Your Word and Your Spirit to speak deeply to me in the tests I face today.
Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
Tests are never fun but they are certainly challenging. God tests us, Satan tempts us and the world tries us. It is easy to mix these up. Satan and the world care nothing about us. But God, He is crazy about us. So you might ask, “Why would He test us then?” The tests God puts before us are tools which cause us to grow, and healthy things always grow. God never tests us to fail us, but to get us to the next level of growth He has in store for us. Daniel faced as many tests as anyone we see in the Bible but Daniel’s life deeply impacted a culture that was so demonic and dark, so wicked and hurtful that it seemed impossible to move, yet Daniel moved kings and culture, because he passed his tests.
Notice Daniel asked for ten days of testing. That is very important. Ten represents the number of faithfulness in the Bible. Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), ten percent of your money (Malachi 3:10), praying for ten days in the Upper Room waiting for Jesus to move (Acts 1:13-14), and the Book of Revelation talks about enduring 10 days of persecution (Revelation 2:10). Testing and faithfulness go hand and hand.
God will test us. The question is, will we pass? Daniel was tested by his culture, the Babylonian culture that was dark and demonic. We are tested by our culture. It too, is growing darker by the day, and it tests us! It challenges our convictions, as it did Daniel’s and Paul’s after him. Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 2:18, “For we wanted to come to you- certainly I, Paul, did, again and again- but Satan blocked our way.” The word means Satan “cut into us” or cut off our way. He impeded us. Satan loves to do that, but God uses these obstacles to grow us. Daniel quickly figured out if he was to survive and flourish in this culture he would have to pass these tests.
So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables. As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.
Notice that after Daniel passed the test God opened new doors for him. God does this for each of us. It is easy to kick and scream and flail when we are being tested. Stop and ask for His Spirit to touch you in the test, to pour out grace to pass the test. He will do it. He is crazy about you and He wants to use your life to impact our culture for His glory. Be still, yield and He will move you through.
Prayer – Father, Your tests are sometimes hard to see and I miss the test and flunk. Please teach me Holy Spirit to be still and listen when life gets hard. Teach me to yield to You Father so I can pass the test.
Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel.
Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
Daniel had the “favor of God” on his life. Clearly, he was esteemed beyond others. Doors opened for him that remained shut to many others. It would be easy to think he earned this favor but to do so would be to miss the gracious hand of God in his circumstances.
To favor means to give special regard to; to treat with goodwill; to show exceptional kindness to someone. Sometimes, it means to show extra kindness in comparison to the treatment of others or preferential treatment, though Biblical favor is not always used in a comparative way toward others. It sometimes simply means that the one favored is shown kindness and treated with a generosity and goodwill far beyond what would normally be expected. This is generally the favor we receive from Jesus. We are treated much better than we could expect.
God gives those who seek Him favor. This is found all over in the Bible; from Moses with Pharaoh, to Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes, to Paul and King Agrippa in Acts 26. God opens doors for those who serve and seek Him.
I Samuel 2:26
“Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men.”
“And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
God gives favor to His people, yet we often miss His hand extending us favor. We mistakenly believe it is our warm demeanor or wise response that has achieved favor for us, but the truth is, it is His hand and His alone that has favored us. If you stop and look back, I am guessing you will see His hand has favored you. He has helped you when you didn’t deserve help, opened doors that were shut and made a way when there was no way.
Jesus gives us favor at work, favor at home, favor in circumstances and situations we never deserved to succeed in. I know this well as I have experienced the favor of God for many years, not because I deserved it, or earned it, but because He so kindly and graciously extends it to us when we chase after Him. He gives favor in the most unlikely places, when you are out shopping and can’t find what you need and suddenly a person shows up who makes it all work. Favor in appointments that are difficult and painful, and suddenly the right words flow out and healing begins to take place. Favor in employment, when your boss seems to notice your efforts when they never did before. Favor is part of the great journey with Jesus. Today ask for and watch closely for His favor to touch your life and journey.
Prayer – Father, You are amazing! You favor those of us who deserve nothing, not one single thing, yet You extend grace and truth toward us. You bring healing and hope to us and You insert Yourself into our daily situations and circumstances giving us favor. Please give me eyes to see and ears to hear when Your favor moves in my life.
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Daniel made up his mind, literally he resolved or determined to do something. A line had been crossed and he made up his mind he wouldn’t go there. How many times has that happened to each of us? A line is crossed, an issue of kindness or lack thereof, an issue of justice or injustice in a circumstance or situation, an issue of right and wrong, something you know inside is wrong and a line has been crossed but you didn’t say anything? I know I have done this more times than I wish. We all have.
What was it about Daniel, a teenager, that allowed him to stand up when so many times we don’t? The Hebrew words say Daniel set or established his inner self or heart, his inclination or loyalty to not be polluted, desecrated or stained. He was literally guarding his heart.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
When we don’t guard our hearts we lose life and sometimes hope. We compromise what we know is right and settle for far less than we know God wants and later we wonder, what happened? Where did my passion go? My love for God and others is gone, but I have no idea why. I didn’t guard my heart. I allowed things that would pollute and desecrate me to come into my life. I watched a movie I never should have watched. I participated in a conversation I knew wasn’t healthy. I knew it crossed a line, but I quietly allowed it to stain my soul, my spirit and my heart.
How did Daniel succeed where I failed? First, he set a line; he determined what he would and wouldn’t do. He probably saw this test coming and that he would be, at some point, asked to eat the king’s food that had been offered to idols. He pre-decided to not go there. He counted the cost beforehand. What would it cost him to say no? Likely his life, but he decided that to preserve his integrity and his purity before God he wouldn’t cross that line. He feared God more than men. I know when I fail this test it is usually because I feared what the people would think more than what God would think. Not smart, but very human. This is why taking time out every day to sit with Jesus and talk, to read the Word of God and allow convictions to build inside is crucial. It is never wasted time to be alone with the Lord. It is building time. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 7:24;
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
My time alone with Jesus is a time to build my foundation, my convictions, that I will live out of each day. I need to hear His words, so I read my Bible. I need to act on them, so I pray over the things I read through and I am honest about my fears, my weaknesses and my failures. I invite the Holy Spirit to touch me with the grace I need to obey, to build the determination to do what’s right and not what’s safe and comfortable. This is Daniel. Amazing isn’t it for a 15-year-old to have convictions like these that he’s willing to die for? Well he wasn’t alone. His three friends held the same beliefs. Others around you hold the same beliefs. Don’t believe the enemy when he calls you a fool and compares you to those who cross the line daily. He hates the reality that you know what’s Godly and what’s not.
Prayer – Father, it is time for You to build deep convictions in me. Please convince me that Your words, not those of others, will bring life. Teach me to build my house on You and Your Word.
The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names: Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego.
Daniel and his friends received a name change, one verse, two sentences and we pass right on by but I am certain they didn’t. Our names mean so much to us but not nearly what the names of these Hebrew boys meant to them. You see, their parents were very selective about the names of their children because Hebrews always believed your name should reflect your nature. So, Daniel’s parents named him – “God is my judge.” Hananiah’s parents named him, “Yahweh is gracious”; Mishael was named, “who is what God is?” (the idea being that there is no god like the God of Israel); and Azariah, “Yahweh has helped” or “will help.” But the Babylonians renamed them after three of their gods. What a shock that must have been. We get so much of our identity out of our names and that was the very reason they changed them, to strip their identity and remake their destiny, but it didn’t work.
Daniel and his friends had their identity grounded much deeper than their names. Their identity came from their relationship with Yahweh, their God. Our identity should come from the same place, Jesus our God. He is the one who has purchased our lives. He is the one who has declared us to be His sons or daughters.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become sons of God.”
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father.”
“Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.”
Your name is not your nature if you know Jesus. He is the one who will shape your nature and is shaping it at this very moment. He is crafting circumstances to bring you closer to Him. He is moving situations to deepen your heart. He is testing you, now, today. Can you see His hand moving in your circumstances and situations? Daniel and his friends did. In spite of the horrendous situation they were stuck in they believed God was bigger and able to move beyond King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian empire, and He is still moving in you today.
Prayer – Father, I need to see Your hand in my journey today. Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see and ears to hear what You are saying and doing today. I know You are for me and I am believing that You will move in me today.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah.
While Daniel was in captivity he had something Joseph never knew, friends. Daniel had friends to pray with (Daniel 2:17-18), to grow with, to go through the tests with. He had friends who spoke his language and knew the world he grew up in. Friends make all the difference in the world; having people in our lives we can count on, people who are strong in their faith and who are able to stand with you when you are weak. Friends who bring a word of encouragement at just the right time. Daniel’s faith was going to be deeply tested by his captivity along with that of his friends, but together they would stand. Together they could thrive.
Friendship is an exciting and thrilling thing when God is in it. When He weaves your heart into another person’s heart and vice versa, you feel as though you have known them all your life when it may have been just a few months or years. The word friend in the New Testament has many different connotations but one that is found everywhere is the picture of familiarness. Now I know this isn’t a word but it says what a friend is, one who is familiar with me, one who is close to me, one who is beloved, or dear to me. Jesus spoke of friendship His last night on earth. He said;
There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are My friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me.
Jesus’ friendship penetrates deep into our souls and spirit. He takes the time to become very familiar with us; with our fears and our joys, with our failure and our success, our dreams and our despair. His Spirit is ever probing me and you to create deeper intimacy which is born out of us knowing Him and Him knowing us. Friendship with Jesus is a huge part of really knowing Him. Friendship doesn’t mean you take advantage of someone but that you trust and honor them. Jesus said we are His friends when we obey Him. When we are intimate with Him and His Spirit directs us and we respond, not as a slave but as a friend, intimacy and friendship grow. We are happy to please Him, and do as He asks, because He is our friend with whom we share affection and trust. When we walk with Him He speaks to us, He confides with us and intimacy can flourish.
Prayer – Jesus, today I want our friendship to flourish. I want to walk intimately with You and I want You to speak life and hope into me. Remove fear and fill me with faith to trust that You are my friend.
Week 1 - Day 1
Then the king ordered… his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family… who had been brought to Babylon as captives. 4 “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said…. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
Taken captive, that is one of the worst fears a human can face. Being taken captive to a foreign land where you do not know the language, the customs or the people. To become a slave for other’s use is almost unimaginable for most of us, yet that is exactly where Daniel found himself as the book of Daniel opens with these few verses. A slave, a captive in bondage to another, yet as we read on Daniel flourished. Like Joseph, he rose to the top of every trial he faced. Undaunted and apparently unshaken this 15-year-old boy from a royal Jewish family somehow not only survived but he thrived. Do you ever ask yourself why you don’t thrive more? Jesus promised abundant life, not drudgery or discouragement but fullness and possibility in the midst of the daily grind. Daniel figured out this part of the journey at a very young age.
Unfortunately, for many of us bondage is a way of life. No, not slavery in a foreign land, but bondage deep within our souls. You may be inclined to dismiss this but Jesus certainly didn’t. In Luke 4 when Jesus unrolled the scroll of Isaiah in the temple He began to read from a text which ought to cause us to stop and take inventory of our lives.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
There are two words here that should cause us to pause and pray, captives and oppressed. Jesus came to declare five things according to Luke 4:18-19 and two of them have to do with slavery or captivity. The word captive is literally “one taken into exile” and oppressed means to experience severe hardship. Some of us live every day in captivity with severe hardship deep inside our soul. We are stuck, stuck back in grade school, stuck in Jr. High, stuck in captivity to a word that broke us, a circumstance from someone you trusted that tore into you and you have never gotten free from it. Jesus understands this and it is why He spoke out His calling to heal bondage and free captives. Daniel undoubtedly understood how crucial running to God was for him to survive captivity.
We need to do the same. Come to Jesus all the time when you are weary and heavy in your heart and He will give you rest today. He will free you from captivity when you start seeing yourself as His and His alone. No one else has bought you, nor does anyone else own you. Only Jesus. And He purchased you to set you free. Come to Him and yield your pain to Him today. I have spent many years of my journey with Jesus getting free and learning to stay free. It takes time, and it is often a scary journey that certainly has its costs but it is worth it to be set free. He is your healer and your bondage breaker. He is your hope, turn to Him and cry out to Him. He has come to heal you.
Prayer – Father, life is full of bumps and bruises I often figure I am just supposed to live with, but You have declared freedom over me. I want to believe that today You will free me and heal my scars. Please Holy Spirit touch me deep inside and set me free.