Has your God been able to deliver you? The answer to Darius’s question to Daniel is a resounding yes. Indeed, a theme running throughout the book of Daniel is that the Lord is able. He is able to see, to hear, to know, to do wonders, to send dreams and signs, to give understanding and interpretation, to check mankind’s hubris, to move swiftly and decisively to deliver his people.
Think of how the exiles must have felt to hear King Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol their God as the King of heaven who is able to abase those who walk in pride. Nebuchadnezzar, chastened and repentant, speaks of what he knows.
The Lord God is able. His deliberate and unmistakable displays of his power are done “that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:17). The exiles are not his only audience. In fact, except for Daniel, the people of Judah are very much in the background. In the foreground are the pagans, the Gentiles, the upper echelon of the courts of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s heart is for every nation, tribe, people, and language to know that he is King of kings.
Daniel reflects God’s love for these foreign pagan people, giving us a template for living an integrated life in a pluralistic world. Daniel puts flesh and bones on Peter’s call to Christians to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation… that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9, RSV). We are to be simultaneously a “holy nation,” a unique community that looks very different from the culture, and a “royal priesthood,” believers who intercede and bring people to God.
During the exile, Daniel is a remarkable witness, moving with integrity in a pagan world while consistently eschewing the hedonistic, indolent lifestyle at court. He seems as untouched by the temptations and charms of Babylon as he was by the lions. It is as if the reality of being in exile gives Daniel a clear recognition that this world is not our home.
Daniel is not of the Babylonians’ world, but he is very much in their world. He seeks their welfare and prays for them. He works for their good. In turn they respect and trust him. He has a sincere compassion for Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s heartfelt dismay over God’s decree and earnest plea that Nebuchadnezzar repent is instructive. I wonder if the reality of captivity gave Daniel a sobering understanding of where sin takes us and a genuine impulse to bring people to a saving faith.
At every sign and wonder, Daniel declares the wonderful deeds of the Lord. He never points to himself but always to the Lord God. God is behind every dream, every interpretation, every intersection, every gift and talent. The Lord God is able—able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.
Daniel walks out of the darkness of the lions’ den saying, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths… because I was found blameless before him” (Dan. 6:22). Given what is written in Scripture about Daniel, it is hard to find any blame to pin on him. But the next verse makes it clear that Daniel was blameless before the Lord not on his own merit or piety but by faith: “…no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (Dan. 6:23).
These three chapters in Daniel are descriptive of a well-lived life grounded in a deep and abiding faith in God. In contrast, I fall so short of the mark. Yet, instead of discouragement, I find a familiar call to repentance and a renewed hope in God, who is able: able to present us without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing (Jude 1:24, RSV).
The more we can draw on that sure and certain hope, the more our lives will declare the wonderful deeds of him who brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light.