No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. [Daniel 2:27-28 ESV]
Every story in Daniel is a direct and bold confrontation of sin and of worldviews which either marginalize God or show out-and-out hatred for Him. In the middle of a kingdom devoted to idolatry God placed four men devoted to Him. Each was fully convinced of God’s justice and righteousness, of His holiness and eternity. Their decisions in the face of suffering for righteousness’ sake was to do only God’s will regardless of the immediate danger.
From the beginning of their story they refused to defile themselves with the food of the world. For most this means nothing. But, these were young men from noble families, “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace” [Daniel 1:4 ESV]. All were taken captive from Judah, made eunuchs, and then trained in the culture, the mores and folkways of Babylon, to advise the king. Instead of lamenting their loss they determined to remain true to the calling of God. They learned and excelled and applied themselves to their temporary duties while remaining focused upon God. By placing God first they were recognized as leaders, lights of wisdom in a dark, devious culture.
What are the stories in Daniel? Besides not eating the food, probably unclean food to them, they refused to worship the false idols representing their king. For three, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, this refusal to worship the golden idol of Nebuchadnezzar incurred his violent wrath. Nebuchadnezzar did not know God, and treated Him like all the other gods of his life. But God is not a figment of imagination, nor a mist or pall of smoke easily blown away. He lifts up those He wishes and brings low those He wishes to bring low. He lifted up Nebuchadnezzar and startled him with His power and grace. No one dies until God determines their time to die, even when thrown into a fire hot enough to kill any who come close. The guards who died obeyed their king even though it cost them their lives. They worshipped him, or were afraid of him, willing to give everything for him. Though sentenced to death those who obeyed God, having devoted their lives to Him, lived. It does not matter whether the world uses fire or lions, those who worship God will live with Him though they die in the world. Their light shows Him to the world.
Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. [Daniel 3:28, ESV]
Daniel was given by God the ability to interpret dreams. Dreams were, and still are, seen as a means for the supernatural (or the buried psyche) to speak to the natural. Great bodies of literature and teachings of cultures focus upon dreams and their meanings. Nebuchadnezzar, and later Darius, and other idolatrous leaders drew around themselves those who purported to interpret dreams. But Nebuchadnezzar was different, even insane. He had a dream and demanded his sorcerers tell him the dream and then its interpretation. He was a shrewd, mad man, looking for any excuse to exert his “unlimited” power over the lives of his subjects. He enjoyed murdering people and ordered all the “wise” men murdered because they could not do the impossible.
Daniel’s God is the God of impossible solutions. He not only revealed to Daniel the dream He had given Nebuchadnezzar but gave Daniel its meaning. God’s light of truth shown through a man, totally devoted to God, in a way the godless idolater could not deny. Nebuchadnezzar had no excuse for denying God or placing himself equal to Him. But he did deny God, and he did make himself equal and even greater than God, and lost his mind for seven years. Nebuchadnezzar did not put all he learned about God together correctly until the end of his life.
Speaking to Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, on his last night alive, Daniel proclaimed God’s judgment, the light of God’s truth, against the man. Read Daniel 5:18-23.
God placed these men where He wanted them, so they could focus the light of their lives, God’s light of truth, on the darkness of the world. This is undeniably true for all Christians.