By John Greco
The Bible is full of imperfect people who wavered in their faith and obedience. Moses led God’s people out of Egypt but first pleaded with the Lord to pick someone else. David was a man after God’s own heart but committed adultery and murder. Elijah asked God to take his life after defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Peter was one of Jesus’s best friends and a leader in the early Church, but he also publicly denied the Lord three times. The list could go on and on. But there are a handful of people for whom Scripture records no such mixed reviews. The prophet Daniel is one of them.
The consistent testimony of God’s Word is that Daniel obeyed the Lord, even under the tremendous pressure that comes with living as a captive in a foreign land. That, of course, doesn’t mean Daniel was without sin. Rather it means that Daniel was a man of unusually strong faith.
This faith is on full display in Daniel 2. King Nebuchadnezzar has had a dream and wants one of his wise men to interpret it for him. The catch? The interpreter must also tell the king what the dream was about. A seemingly impossible task, the empire’s other wise men quake with fear, especially when the king issues an order for their execution. But not Daniel. Instead of trembling, Daniel and his friends pray.
When God answers, Daniel confidently proclaims, “Don’t destroy the wise men of Babylon! Bring me before the king, and I will give him the interpretation” (Daniel 2:24). Daniel knows that the vision he has received is from the Lord and that it will satisfy the king’s request. No doubt about it.
As Daniel reports, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was about world empires—his own and three to follow. During the time of the fourth kingdom, a new kingdom arises, unlike the others, and it has no end. The message is simple but important: God is sovereign over world history. Nebuchadnezzar may have thought himself the ruler of his expansive realm, but God is the rightful Ruler of the world.
Even before Daniel received the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he knew this. It’s why he could behave with such faith while living in Babylon. According to the common beliefs of the day, the gods were territorial. Babylon belonged to Marduk and his pantheon. Yahweh’s territory was the land of Israel. In other words, Daniel’s God should have been powerless to act on Daniel’s behalf while Daniel was in exile. But that isn’t how the world actually works. The one true God knows no boundaries, no territories, and no limits. He is the God of history, sovereign over all peoples, all lands, and all circumstances.
All too often, my behavior betrays the doubts that reside in my heart. If I really believed that God held every detail of my life in His hands, my first response to trouble would be faith rather than the enacting of some detailed plan to manage things on my own. Daniel’s life is a reminder that there is another way, a way that sees living in a foreign land with other gods not as a hardship but as a training ground for deeper faith. May we all keep this perspective, for we all, like Daniel, are far from home.
Written by John Greco