As He Had Done Previously
by Brett Bradshaw
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
As I read the story of Daniel in the Bible the other morning, I asked myself, “How do we live well over the long haul in a world the wants to eat us alive?” Then I thought, “Well that’s a bit dramatic . . . a world that wants to eat us alive. Really?” But I think if we pay careful attention to the life of Daniel and our lives in the world, we shall see that the stakes are high for us as they were for Daniel. We may not literally face a lion’s den for our faith; however, the world, the flesh, and the devil are after what we will worship, seeking to kill, steal, and destroy.
In an address at Kenyon College, the American author David Foster Wallace described worship as the default-setting that drives our choices. He says,
"In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. . . . pretty much anything else you worship [other than a gracious higher power] will eat you alive [emphasis mine]. If you worship money and things—if they are where you tap real meaning in life—then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. . . . Worship power, you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on."
After nearly seventy years of exile, Daniel had become the type of person whose default-setting was to worship the one true God, regardless of circumstances. He is a witness to the life-giving power of faith lived out day after day, year after year, forming an identity deeply rooted in God. A teacher once shared a quote with me by the British novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch who said, “At crucial moments of choice, most of the business of choosing is already over.” At Daniel’s crucial moment of choice, “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (6:10).
But if we only look at Daniel, we will miss the point. As we look through a window, not merely to see a glass pane but to see through it to a wider world beyond the frame, we must look through Daniel to see his God. This is the one true God who entered history in the person of Jesus the Messiah. This is the God who fell on His face to pray at a crucial moment of choice and chose the cross. Jesus was killed, conquered death, and now calls us live well over the long haul in this world by total confidence in Him. By His Spirit dwelling within us, we can become the type of people who live well through small, ordinary acts of humility, trust, and thankfulness, day after day, year after year, at any time, in any place, under any circumstance, no matter what.