Humble & Bold: A Response to Daniel 1 & 2
After all the drama our nation and our world has been going through in recent months, Jennie Allen’s invitation to dive deep in the ancient book of Daniel has come at just the right time for me.
Along with thousands of other folks across the globe, I am joining up with Jennie’s “Humble & Bold” Bible study – and hashing this out in person with a handful of my “real life” friends in my living room. Over the next few weeks we will wrestle through this together both face to face and, for those of us who can’t help but write our hearts out in order to get clarity, in writing.
Today I’m sharing my humble observations and thoughts from our first week of homework and discussion:
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I have to admit: I absolutely LOVED reading Daniel chapters 1 and 2 this week! I don’t know if I never heard this stuff before, or if I just never really paid attention in the past, or if I simply never took the effort to really put myself into Daniel’s shoes when I read about his life before, but either way: I was totally awed and inspired by Daniel’s life and decisions and courage. AND I was also awed by how capable and amazing and mysterious GOD is.
Seriously blowing my mind.
After pondering it on my own during homework-time earlier this week, and then processing through this with a handful of my dear friends this morning, here is what has stood out to me so far:
- Context: Apparently, I never really grasped the context of Daniel’s life before: the fact that he had just been basically kidnapped/stolen from his homeland and put through some kind of evaluation to determine his intelligence, aptitude to learn, and physical fitness – and that he was both enslaved AND getting groomed to become indoctrinated as one of Babylon’s next up-and-coming “wise men” was heartbreakingly fascinating to me. He is referred to as a “young man” – I’m assuming that means he was less than 18 years old – I can’t imagine how stressful and disorienting (and scary!) the whole scenario must have been for him. I imagine he and his three Jewish friends must have felt severely outnumbered and powerless in this new culture they were being forced to acclimate to.
- Courage: I was enthralled that, in chapter 1, Daniel had the courage (a.k.a. “cojones”) to even ASK the Babylonian guard whether or not he could have his nutritional plan altered from the rest of the young man in the wisemen training program.” Despite the fact that he was both young AND an exile AND didn’t speak the language AND was (I assume) unfamiliar with the culture of this new land, I find it ridiculously courageous that he even attempted to ask the guard to consider a separate nutritional routine for himself and his friends.
- Humility: I love how humble Daniel was in his request for veggies & water: “Just watch us for ten days,” he asked. “Depending on how we look at the end of those ten days, you can judge whether or not we ought to be allowed to continue with this nutritional plan. It’s totally up to you.” I love both the humility, the perseverance, and creativity of his approach here.
- Taking a Breath: One of the things we talked about this morning when we met together was how, when posed with the challenge (in Chapter 2) of King Nebuchadnezzar’s unreasonable request regarding his dream, what Daniel did first was “ask for time” from the king. He simply took a deep breath and asked to put a pause on all of the madness so that he could have time to seek God and ask for support from his friends. I love this. So often THIS is the “quick answer” that I need as well: to just stop. and breathe. and take whatever time I need to wrap my mind around what is happening and how I might be able to “seek God for mercy” in it. (P.S. This step ALSO took a crapload of courage!) Well done, Daniel.
- Friendship: Once the king granted Daniel more time (miracle?!?), the first thing Daniel did was go to his three God-following, holiness-minded friends and ask them to pray alongside him about all that was transpiring. And this is what I love most here: they didn’t just talk ABOUT praying, they ACTUALLY PRAYED. Yes. Good idea, guys. Oh! And then: they listened and watched for God’s response. What a novel idea. Maybe I should do that too…?
- Humility (again!): After God miraculously showed Daniel the vision of the king’s dream, and gave him the prophetic interpretation of it, Daniel took zero credit for any of it. Rather, his response was to simply praise God and then, when relaying his newfound information to the king, Daniel constantly gave credit to the “revealer of mysteries” (aka his God, Yahweh). It wasn’t about him (Daniel). It was about God Himself. Yes, Daniel did his small part and was grateful that God gave him the wisdom and insight to do his part – but that wasn’t the point. The point was that God was trying to get a particular message into the king and he chose Daniel to be the conduit for that message. I love that Daniel specifically says “As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.” Gosh, there is so much to learn here. How I long to be like this: I long so much to be a person who is courageous, yet (shockingly?) doesn’t give a hoot who gets the credit. I want so much to simply want what is right (without worrying about ego or who’s really right, etc). Anyone else know what I’m talking about here?
- Willingness to “Go Small”: God has been talking about this with me a ton over the past several years. I love how Daniel didn’t seem to be trying to solve all his world’s problems— he simply did what he knew was right. He did his part, whatever that was. Whether it was choosing to eat a particular menu of food, or whether it was have a hard conversation with a likely-intimidating guard or commander or even KING, or whether it was to pray all night, begging God for mercy regarding his ruler’s unreasonable request… Daniel just did whatever he could. He did HIS thing, however small it might seem to others. He followed God’s lead and sought God and did what he felt was right. Yes. That’s what I want to do too.
After reading through these amazing two chapters, here is what I have learned
- About God: He can (and does!) do crazy, abnormal, miraculous, unprecedented, life-changing, career-changing, and even nation-changing things! He works in mysterious ways and, for some odd reason, He tends to use His kids to be the conduits for much of His work in this world.
- About Our World: God’s got it. Even when things look BAD. REAL bad. He’s got it. He will work through it. He will still speak to His kids and lead them and empower them and use them and give them favor and wisdom through it all. No matter how bad things may be.
- About Myself: I, too, CAN pray and truly expect that, if something is God’s will, I WILL see miracles. Even if I’m enslaved. Even if the person running my country does despicable things (like steals kids from other nations and tries to brainwash them to work for him). Even if I only have three real friends. Even if I’m on death row. Even if it’s never been done before. Even if I’m scared. Even if I’m surrounded by people much more powerful than myself. Even if I feel small and “too young” and outnumbered and alone and like a foreigner in a foreign land. And also: friends are helpful. So is prayer. So is waiting on God. And I need to never forget this: my job is simply to follow God’s lead and do my part— however small it might seem.
That’s it for today, folks. I would sure love to hear from you as well. Please: read Daniel 1 & 2 and start pondering him, his position in society, his personal convictions, and all that he and God did during the challenges Daniel faced in Babylon. I’d love to hear your insight on it all.
What does Daniel’s life stir up in you? In what ways do you find yourself facing similar circumstances to him and how do your beliefs and/or doubts about God impact the way you are living? What do these passages teach you about God, about our world, and about yourself?
Please share your journey in the comment section below.