One of the chief lessons I think we can learn from the first three chapters of Daniel is how God can change a pagan nation. And frankly we should all be able to identify with Daniel and his friends.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Daniel 1:8
Daniel and friends were young and had been thrust into a foreign, pagan nation. The culture was forced on them and they had to choose how to react. Daniel decided in his heart that he would not yield to the temptations of Babylon. He went against the culture and wishes of the foreign king to stay true to his God. He refused to defile himself and this caused he and his friends to be noticed by the end of the chapter. “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” (vs. 20)
In chapter 2 Daniel and his fellow wise men find themselves in a crisis. While many of the “wise men” of the kingdom responded to the king foolishly causing the king to become angry, Daniel responds wisely.
Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. He declaredto Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. Daniel 2:14-16
With divine intervention, Daniel was able to tell the king his dream and interpret it. While others complained, Daniel wisely moved to action and prayer and solved the problem at hand. His actions not only gave the king what he desired, but prevented the slaughter of all the wise men in the kingdom. At the end of chapter two, Daniel and his friends are promoted, with Daniel becoming the chief prefect of all the wise men.
And now we come to the famous fiery furnace of chapter three. This chapter clearly demonstrates intense persecution of the faithful. But do not mistake this, for here we see Jesus show up.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25
When this type of suffering and persecution comes, the miraculous and glorious power of Jesus can manifest. And this only happens when we take on the attitude of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
And as we continue to follow the story, it brings us to chapter 4. All of what we find in the first three chapters produce what you see in chapter 4.
King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4:1-3
Don’t overlook what Nebuchadnezzar says too quickly. This is a pagan king who turns his way toward God. He writes a proclamation to all his kingdom, which is enormous at this time. What changed? God repeatedly put his servants before the king. Those who refused to obey the culture and times and served their God at the expense of their lives. And lastly, God humbled Neb for seven years showing him who was soverign. So how do you change a pagan nation?
1) Christians must refuse to defile themselves with the temptations of our culture.
2) Respond in wisdom and prayer in the midst of a crisis.
3) Refuse to bow down to the gods of our age even if it means the fiery furnace.
All through Daniel we see signs, wonders, and miracles. This is because God’s servants choose Him over their culture. Those who loved God were unbendable in regard to their actions and worship of the true God. We live today in a pagan nation — one that constantly forces its detestable lusts and idols in our face. To see God move and bring reformation, we must follow the examples in Daniel.
The answer is not easy, but it is true. How do we change our nation – with hardcore Christian faith. A faith that will not budge in the midst of enormous opposition. Maybe this means we sacrifice all we are including our lives. And maybe it means Jesus Christ shows up in the midst of our fiery trials.
“our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”