Daniel is a man of sorrows. Consider all that happens to poor Daniel across the plot line of this book. He is taken captive; his home, family, and even name are taken away from him. Later, he is to be executed with the magicians of Babylon, and then, still later, he alone is thrown into a lion’s den. It’s a series of awful circumstances, threats, and experiences, and yet in all of it Daniel is able to endure. How can Daniel survive all these sorrows and weighty experiences? He can survive suffering because he depends upon God. When we depend upon God no trial is too great.
One of the major themes of Daniel is the presence of God in the face of suffering. Daniel and his friends live these lessons for us. As we read we see again and again the faith of these men. They experience trial, threat, even the sentence of death and each time they remain faithful and confident that God will care for them. Consider chapter two of Daniel as a case and point. Following directly on the heels of his trial of chapter 1 Daniel is thrust again into a situation of concern. Yet again he presents himself confident and bold in faith.
The first 13 verses describe the scene. The King has had a particularly unnerving dream, one so unnerving in fact that he wants the magicians to give him an accurate interpretation that he might really understand it. The normal practice of interpretation followed a predictable pattern: the king told the dream to his conjurers and they would offer some explanation of its meaning. But, the King knows that there is no guarantee that their interpretations are accurate. In fact, he says of them that they have agreed among themselves to speak “lying words” to the King (v. 9). So, this time he insists, “Tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation” (v. 9). But, of course, none of the magicians can do this, in fact they admit that only “the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” can do such a thing (v. 11). They speak more truly than they realize.As a result of their inability to declare the dream, however, the King becomes enraged and orders the execution of all the magicians in the land, including Daniel and his friends.
The scene is very unsettling. We are, perhaps, tempted to become frustrated with God at this point. After all, Daniel has just demonstrated how faithful He is to the Lord. In chapter one he refuses to eat the King’s food because it would be a violation of God’s law. He demonstrates unbelievable faithfulness and boldness in this refusal. Yet, God allows another trial to come to Daniel, one even more difficult. Why does God do this? Is He not pleased with Daniel? Doesn’t Daniel deserve a break and some blessing? This is the way we are prone to think in our earthly minds. We think that obedience to God in one scenario earns us blessing in another. We are prone to think of obedience as putting God in our debt. If we do our part then God must do His. But God does not exist in relationship to us that way. He is never in man’s debt (Luke 17:10). God owes man nothing, and He has His reasons for allowing trials to come into our life. So, God will not remove every trial from our lives, but He does promise to be with us in the midst of them (Ps. 23:4), and to give us grace for them (2 Cor. 12:9). That’s what He does for Daniel.
Daniel, when he is confronted with the reality of yet another trial, depends upon God. Upon learning the news of the execution of all the magicians, Daniel makes a bold appeal: And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king (v. 16). He is going to declare the King’s dream to him and give its interpretation. How is this possible? Not because of Daniel’s own wisdom – though He had been granted much (1:20). No, this is not a task that Daniel can complete on his own, only a “God, whose dwelling is not with flesh” can give this interpretation. So, Daniel will appeal to God.
In verses 17-23 we read Daniel’s prayer to God. He and his friends “seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” (v. 18), and God delights to Give Daniel wisdom. His prayer is really a praise to the all-wise God who imparts wisdom. We read:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.
Daniel knows where true wisdom comes from. He knows all and can be trusted and sought when we don’t know what to do. James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask God who gives generously to all. Ultimately, of course, we find that wisdom exists in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that in Christ ” are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3). Those of us who know Christ have every reason to trust God in the face of trials. He is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).
In fact, we know we can depend upon God in trials because in wisdom God sent Christ to redeem us from the ultimate suffering. Because God has demonstrated His love and faithfulness to us in Jesus we can trust Him to care for us in the other trials of life. Paul asks the rhetorical question:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)
Because God, in Christ, has dealt with our biggest problem – our sin problem – we can trust Him to help us with whatever trials face us next. This does not mean nothing bad will ever happen to us if we trust Jesus. That is emphatically not the point of Daniel. He is bold in faith and yet experiences a multitude of difficulties and sorrows. Yet he knows the character of this God and he depends upon Him.
Daniel endures and survives sufferings because He depends upon God. Most of us don’t run to God as our first resort in times of trial. We try a million other things, often attempting to depend only ourselves – which is really just a cultivation of our pride. Daniel models a better path for us: trust in God. He can be counted on. He is a God of wisdom who delights to help us navigate trials and sufferings by imparting such wisdom to those who seek His mercy. Where do you run when you are anxious? What do you look to for help in times of difficulty? What do you put your hope in when suffering arises? Is it God? You can trust in Him, Jesus is the proof.