After the refusal of the three Hebrew boys to bow and their subsequent miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar, the King, the pagan tyrant is himself converted (Daniel 4). The king gets saved. Wow! All is well. Ah, but then his son or grandson does not follow in his footsteps. The train is off the track again.
In chapter 5, Belshazzar whose heart is much harder, will use the sacred vessels of Yahweh’s temple at a vulgar dinner party. God Himself will be the show-stopper. His fingers mysteriously appear on the wall leaving a lethal message. Daniel will interpret the ominous code – Belshazzar would die that night. His kingdom ends. Are we back on track? Not quite. Under the new king Darius and a new Kingdom (the Medes), Daniel would be imperiled by an edict forbidding prayer. The secret spies of political correctness would ferret out the former advisor to the Babylonians and seek not only his exposure and expulsion from any influential position, but also his death. But Daniel refused to conform and God spared him. His accusers died in the very lion’s den to which they had seen Daniel banished. Darius, as had Nebuchadnezzar before him, affirmed Daniel and his faith.
What’s the message? The heart of the King is in the hand of God. He saves. He judges. He spares. He removes. He redirects. He erases. He puts up and he takes down.
These stories are strung together with what appears to be a zigzag fashion. In chapter 3, when faith in is peril and idolatrous worship is imposed as a mandated state religion and the three Hebrew boys are cast in the fiery furnace, they not only survive – they thrive. The men who put them there die, but they live. The bad story turns out good, and even better when the King is saved – it is a great story. But then the King’s son, Belshazzar, turns out to be a rotten egg. Judgment comes, and with it a new sheriff arrives in town with a new government. But it is sadly loaded with undercover operatives who seek to impose political correctness, so the story turns dark again. Daniel is exposed, sentenced, caught in a kind of sting operation designed to use the new justice system to eliminate him. He is cast into a den of lions as a death sentence, but God shows up yet again. The story-line dips, and then rises out of the shadows – miraculously.
Like driving a mountain road – the story twists and turns. The road goes forward and backwards, up and down, back and forth. It is ruthless and then rosy again. An unrighteous king becomes an upright king, and then there is another corrupt king. Deliverance comes only to intersect with a new dilemma. The ultimate resolve is when the true man, Jesus, comes and brings his kingdom. Our hope is not in an earthly government or king, but in God. And yet, the message is not to detach and despair, looking longingly toward the return of Christ as the only hope – it is the ultimate hope, but God acts in history as well.
In fact, when history seems out of control – the message of Daniel is that God is still sovereign, even over a king that seems so far removed from godly values. Don’t lose heart. God changed Nebuchadnezzar into a converted man that glorified Him. And God removed Belshazzar. So you and I must be faithful. We are to keep praying. Don’t bend your knee to the image, don’t bow. Don’t acknowledge the false system or put your trust in earthly powers. The fact that Daniel survives, through the turmoil of the changing political currents, even after a new empire arises, is proof that God can place and keep key leaders in critical positions of influence. And in the process, he can change a king!
Samuel Chadwick, in his book, The Path of Prayer, declared, “Nothing would turn the nation back to God so surely and so quickly as a Church that prayed and prevailed. The world will never believe in a religion in which there is no supernatural power. A rationalized faith, a socialized Church and a moralized gospel may gain applause, but they awaken no conviction and win no converts.”
P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.