17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:Daniel 2:17-28
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with Him.
To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these….”
I have always been fascinated by the lives of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Their dietary faithfulness in Daniel 1, excursion in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3, and salvation in the lions’ den in Daniel 6 get a lot of focus – and have always been favorites of mine. But it was not until recently that Daniel 2 became a centerpiece of my amazement.
It is in our nature to be attracted to moments that appear spectacular. And these four young men were definitely involved in some spectacular moments. God moved powerfully and memorably in their lives. Even though they were exiles, they enjoyed the freedom that comes only from knowing and trusting in the Lord. But it is the acts of worship that precede these events that can give us the most hope.
Daniel 2 begins with Nebuchadnezzar being greatly disturbed by a dream. Perhaps disturbed is an understatement. He was plagued by a prophetic nightmare that kept him up and made him even more violent than usual. He had court magicians and tricksters who specialized in everything from token parlor tricks to divining futures to interpreting dreams.
He made a request of them that was quite ridiculous and genuinely impossible. He did not want them to tell him their interpretation because he knew that they would tell him an answer that pleased and comforted him. Instead, he wanted them to be able to describe his dream to him and, then – and only then, give him the interpretation. They stammered and complained. They tried to explain to the king that it was impossible, but he, just like all tyrannical kings in history, would not be pacified. He gave orders that his guards go through the kingdom and mutilate every magician, enchanter, and wise man that could not fulfill his demands.
This is where we pick up today. You see, Daniel was gifted by God with “understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17), and he, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were “found…ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters…in the kingdom” (Daniel 1:20). But, since the king was so angry, they were in danger of being killed.
These guys just could not catch a break. After all they had been through, these exiled eunuchs now faced execution because of the king’s nightmares. The natural course of action would have been to run away or beg for their lives. They could have fought or struck up a rebellion of sorts. I am sure there were other natural responses that they could have made. Yet they chose the one response that is the most unnatural – they chose to pray.
As we talked about last week, times of crisis draw on the faith that is practice in the normal and mundane. If you turn to God for every need (Philippians 4:6), you will surely turn to Him when things get difficult. If you are looking to talk with Him continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), you will be no stranger to prayer once things tend towards persecution. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were still communing with the Lord even though they were exiled to a foreign land. They did not worship the gods of the Babylonians because they had faith in the Most High. And they did not allow themselves to succumb to fear because they fully knew that their God had already carried them through all of their troubles thus far.
I absolutely love the way that their faith showed up in their lives so naturally. Look again at Daniel’s response to finding out he was sentenced to death:
“Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”vv. 17-18
He simply went to his companions and told them to pray! This seems so outstanding, but it should be commonplace for all believers. These young men’s response should be the same for us. Imagine how much different our lives would be if we would follow the advice of the writer of Hebrews:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”Hebrews 4:16
Daniel told his companions to “seek mercy” and that is exactly what God gave them. He had such faith that God would give them mercy that he was able to go to sleep so that God could reveal to him the king’s dream (v. 19). And how did Daniel respond? Did he march straight up to old Nebuchadnezzar and set him straight? Maybe he jumped on the ancient middle eastern social media platform and let everyone know he had a solution to their problems? No, and no. He responded by worshiping God Most High because he knew that he had no means by which to save himself and realized that he should show his gratitude to the King of kings before settling up with the king of his exile.
I love the way that Sinclair Ferguson puts this particular practice into focus:
“The test of spirituality does not lie only in the fervency of our prayers in times of crisis, but in the wholeheartedness of our worship when God acts in grace. Relief unaccompanied by worship is never an adequate response to the mercies of God.”
Daniel had a relationship with his God. He knew that his God knew him and cared for him. He worshiped his Lord because he saw the value – the “surpassing worth” (Philippians 3:8) – that his God uniquely held. And that moved him to worship.
I would urge you to go back to the Scripture passage at the beginning of this devotion and read Daniel’s prayer – his song – to God in response. You can also continue through the end of Daniel 2 and see the vision that God gave Daniel and the response of Nebuchadnezzar to the impossible thing that God did through Daniel. But, above all, I hope that you realize that the faith that Daniel and his companions had is something that is available to you even today.
As I wrote last week, there is coming a time when difficulties will be more prominent. Things are going to get worse here on earth and not better. But God is still going to be on His throne through all of this. And the best place for us to be now – and it must be now if it will ever be in the future – is on our knees seeking mercy from Him.
Maybe you do not know how to pray. Let Jesus Christ – God Himself – show you how:
“Pray then like this:Matthew 6:9-13
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
 Sinclair Ferguson, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 21: Daniel