And we haven’t even come to the commands of Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles in the New Testament yet!
But today, the opening scene in Daniel gives us a marvelous template for where this can lead in maintaining personal unity with God when we are surrounded by adversity, even threats on our lives.
Israel has been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and many Israelites have been exiled to serve as slaves. The king desires to train a cadre of Israel’s best young men to assimilate over three years into Babylonian culture, so that they will serve in the king’s court.
This is not as plush as it sounds. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah know that one false move will result in instant death if the king is in any way displeased with them.
In this dangerous spot, Daniel’s first act of unity with God is a resolve to keep himself pure before the Lord:
“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (1:8, ESV).
To accomplish this, he needs to enlist the favor of the king’s most trusted chief, whose refusal means immediate execution:
“And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief…” (1:9).
The four young men from Judah eat nothing but vegetables for ten days and convince the chief that God’s food will make them more beneficial to serving the king than the king’s own food:
“As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (1:17).
At the end of only ten days, the four stand before the king, who finds them ten times better in wisdom and understanding than anyone else in the entire kingdom.
Later, the king has very troubling dreams and he is unable to sleep. When all the king’s own wise men cannot tell him what the dreams mean, he orders them all killed, including the four from Judah. But Daniel intervenes with the chief once again and requests to see the king, because Daniel says he can interpret the king’s dream.
Note carefully, however, that Daniel at this moment is acting entirely on faith – he does not yet know the interpretation of the dream any more than all those now condemned to death.
Daniel’s second act of personal unity with God is to pray with his three companions:
“…to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery…” (2:18).
The mystery of the king’s dream is then revealed to Daniel in a vision in the night. His third act of unity is to give powerful thanks to God.
Do yourself a favor right now: read Daniel 2:20-23, and soak it into your bloodstream. No power on earth can supersede what God can provide when we practice unity with him!
When Daniel stands before the king, his fourth act of unity with God is to humbly give God all the glory, not to exult in his new-found personal wisdom:
“…there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living…” (2:28, 30)…
…but because it is God’s will that the king should know what is going to happen to him!
As a result, the king falls down before Daniel and worships the God of Israel; and he makes Daniel ruler over the entire province of Babylon!
Four times Daniel acts in unity with God in the face of powerful danger. Four times God responds with grace and mercy and wisdom and never-ending love.
So this template is: Keep yourself pure before God; pray with your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus; give thanks always for God’s decisions; and humbly give all the glory to God for your success in his light.
Then just imagine what lies ahead for us in the New Testament!