A LOOK AT DANIEL 2-6
Learning From The Gentile Kings Of Daniel
The Book of Daniel contains well-known stories of faithful men in times of adversity. Every Sunday school child loves the stories of Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan. 6) and of the fiery furnace (Dan. 3). While the beginning of Daniel records these wonderful events, these chapters are not just about faithful Jewish captives in a foreign land, but also about the kings of that period. God’s dealings with Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius (Dan. 2-6) provide us with some marvelous pictures of God’s ways of salvation, judgment and restoration. Here we see how the Lord deals with the responsive soul, the rejecting heart and the believing spirit.
Nebuchadnezzar: The Responsive Soul
Four chapters are devoted to the first king of the Jewish captivity. Nebuchadnezzar first meets the Israelite captives who had refused the king’s food (in obedience to their God) and they prove to be wiser than all of the other students in his schooling system. Shortly thereafter, God gives a dream to this Gentile monarch about the future kingdoms that affect the history of the Jewish people. In it, we see that Nebuchadnezzar is the first in a succession of world powers (2:37-43). Through Daniel’s revelation of the dream and its interpretation, the king is introduced to the living God who knows all things, revealing some things to whom He will (2:47). Does God speak to unbelievers? He certainly does! At the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the king does not know the Lord and yet God tells him, through the vision and its interpretation, the plans He has for future world governments (2:45).
These chapters also show the greatness of the king, the head of gold (2:37-38), a fact that is reflected in his show of pride as he sets up a golden statue of himself and makes everyone bow to it. But the faithfulness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who refused to bow before the idol that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, (3:18), results in the king being reintroduced to the Lord (3:25). God identifies Himself with the faithful and is seen in the furnace with the three friends. Does this lead to his salvation? Not yet – but he is probably a step closer, as Nebuchadnezzar publicly declares the greatness of God in his proclamation, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego” (3:28-29).
The Lord has been gently prodding the king to humble himself and place himself under the authority of the Living God. But Nebuchadnezzar must be broken totally. He neglects the chance to change when given a warning from God in a dream (4:4-17). When Daniel interprets the dream, he counsels the king to “break off thy sins by righteousness and thy iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” Failing to do so, the dream must come true and the king loses his mind for seven years (4:32), living as a beast in the field. At the end of this ordained discipline, he is elevated to his earlier glory. Through this ordeal, Nebuchadnezzar becomes a believer in the Living God. This story of his humility and salvation are told personally by Nebuchadnezzar (4:1-3), who freely proclaims praise, exaltation and honor to the King of Heaven, recognizing that His works are truth and His ways just (4:37).
Belshazzar: The Rejecting Heart
While several chapters are devoted to a king who, after much prodding by the Spirit of God, recognized his need to bow before the King of Heaven, only one records God’s dealing with Belshazzar. This king knew the history of his forefather (5:22), but retained the gods of his choosing. Abusing the holy articles taken from the temple of Jerusalem, he praises the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood and stone (5:3-4). So God’s finger of judgment inscribes his sentence of doom into the plaster of the palace wall (5:5). As Daniel interprets the writing, he reminds Belshazzar that he, the king, had not humbled himself before the Most High God, but lifted himself up against the Lord of Heaven (5:22-23). He has been weighed in the balances, found wanting and his judgment ordained (5:25-28). Rather than repent at the distinct warning from the hand of God, the unbelieving Belshazzar dismisses the message, exalts the messenger who interprets it, and loses his life (5:30).
Darius: The Believing Spirit
Oh, the faith of this king! Fooled by his advisers, who play on his pride to make an ungodly proclamation (6:4-9), Darius usurps the place of the Sovereign God and demands that all petitions be made only to him. This condemns his prime minister, Daniel, who will not pray to anyone but the Living God. The king soon recognizes that Daniel is innocent of any wrong except to fall prey to the satanic scheme of his other jealous presidents and princes. But even a saved man, having fallen into sin, must pay the consequences; the law demands that Daniel, his trusted advisor, be cast into the den of lions.
In repentance (6:14) and very displeased with himself, Darius seeks to save Daniel from the consequences of his unjust law. Finally recognizing that he cannot save Daniel from the den of lions, he comes to believe that God will (6:16). The king’s faith in God is tested and he cannot sleep while his innocent friend spends the night in the den. But his faith is rewarded! Who, but a believer in the living God, would go to the lions’ den in the morning to see if a man, thrown to a bunch of hungry lions, would have survived the night? His prophecy, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee” was found to be true. As a result, Darius releases Daniel, condemns those who unjustly plotted against him and proclaims the greatness of the Living God.
It is interesting to contemplate the final edict of this king. He wrote to all peoples, nations and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the Living God” (6:25-27). He desires that all people experience peace. But how is that possible when men must tremble and fear the Living God? We now know that peace is only through the Lord Jesus: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).
God’s Dealings With The Three Kings
In these three kings, we see God’s dealings with man, unto salvation (Nebuchadnezzar), judgment of the ungodly (Belshazzar) and rewarding the believer’s faith (Darius). Oh, how God works in patience to bring a soul to Himself! It took a number of years and divine interventions before Nebuchadnezzar put his trust in the King of Heaven. But the Lord is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). He labors unceasingly in the receptive heart and draws Nebuchadnezzar to Himself.
The wicked He does not tolerate. He warns them in grace: “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God” (Ps. 62:11). Daniel reminds Belshazzar that his grandfather repented after having become like an animal, but although the king was aware of this, he refused to humble himself before the Living God (5:22). When a person rejects God’s warnings, He rewards them according to their deeds (Ps. 28:4-5). “As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God” (Ps. 68:2). Belshazzar loses his kingdom, life and soul to hell. “They shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Isa. 66:24).
Darius believed in the power of the Living God to keep Daniel safe in the lions’ den. Though tried, his faith pleased God and it was rewarded (Heb. 11:6). Failure to put God first will have its consequences, often affecting other innocent people. But God can set things right, and a restored believer becomes a powerful tool in the Lord’s hands. Darius proclaims peace and the greatness of God (6:26-27; Lk. 22:32).
We find a wonderful testament to the workings of God in these three kings of Daniel: Are you seeking the Lord? He will “be found of you” (Jer. 29:11-14). Do you refuse His salvation? Your condemnation is just and eternal (Jn. 3:18). Are you a believer who has failed? Confess your failure and you will be restored (1 Jn. 1:9).
By Hank Blok
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org