Daniel is in a tough spot.
In chapter 2, the king’s wise men are asked to do the impossible — not only are they supposed to interpret the king’s dream, but they are to do so without foreknowledge of the dream itself.
The king’s court goes into an uproar, insisting that their ruler divulge at least a hint of the dream’s contents, but he refuses, even threatening to kill them all if they can’t come up with an answer.
Clearly, the king has some anger management issues. Nebuchadnezzar has been, at most, the ruler over Jerusalem for three years, and surely he’s looking to establish himself as a fearsome authority. The wise men are certainly consumed with fear and scramble for help.
Like a good hero, Daniel shows up, successfully dictates Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to him, then interprets the vision. The dream features a bizarre-looking statue, symbolic in nature — a lot of good research has been done on what the statue symbolizes. I felt that this link summarizes it well enough:
Nebuchadnezzar spares Daniel and his comrades, even promoting them to higher positions for doing seemingly the impossible.
But I found most remarkable about this chapter is the character of Daniel, which features attributes we can certainly glean from when we feel like we’re up against it.
His remarkable trust in God under pressure
Our response to calamity is not unlike the astrologers and magicians who, analyzing the situation at hand, realize they cannot do this thing that requires the insight of those “whose dwelling is not of flesh.” They’re absolutely correct — we are incapable of such insight, and we likewise go into a panic and look at all the logistics, scrambling to solve the problem.
Daniel surely knows his situation, and instead of resorting to great worry, insists on trusting the Lord and seeks “mercies from the God of heaven.”
I’m not going to pretend I do this often enough, but Daniel’s trait provides a sound reminder that we should do our best not to “lean on our own understanding,” which is limited to observation and experience, and instead believe that God’s method is sound and reasonable.
His insistence on worship first
The Lord conveniently reveals everything to Daniel in a vision overnight, certainly reducing a lot of anxiety with the threat of death no longer burdening him. Instead of rushing to the king, he gathers his buddies and prays, humbly acknowledging that “wisdom and might are his.”
You don’t have to wait until Sunday, or even cue up a Chris Tomlin track — you can worship God right now. One method is simply to thank Him, to be aware of what’s going on and send some gratitude along, because He’s in charge, y’know.
His recognition of God’s sovereignty and the established government
I wouldn’t be surprised if Daniel, deep within, hated Nebuchadnezzar. The king of Babylon overran Israel, likely slew many of God’s children, and established heavy ordinances and levied threats on his subjects.
Many people in the U.S., and namely the majority of Christians, don’t like our current president. It takes some creativity for some people to find good in the man’s policies — my Facebook feed clearly illustrates the ire of my brothers and sisters, which is just a sample of the consensus.
Yet it’s forgotten that deceptive oppressive government is nothing new. Daniel exercises trust that God knows who’s in charge, and Paul would later write that we should submit to government authorities, and even do what they say. Daniel managed to do it with a blade under his chin; God can empower you to do the same with less hazardous circumstances afoot.
His deference of credit to himself, instead giving glory unto the Lord
Daniel has every chance to appear special — he receives divine revelation from the Lord, truthfully relays and interprets the vision to the king, and is subsequently heralded in the court.
His response is stunning, however, as he accredits God instead of his abilities for the revelation, and then, in a foretelling of Christ, clearly states that the king’s days as the authority are numbered in contrast to a mysterious coming kingdom.
When we do awesome things, it goes up on Twitter or Facebook, or we post a picture on Instagram, or our great accomplishment is listed on our resume. We love to brag about ourselves whenever possible, even in acts of service or humility.
Instead, we must be willing to submit and lower ourselves even further, taking on the position of a servant, emulating the attitude of the Lord Jesus Himself, who always submitted to the Father and looked to serve others.