“Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” — Daniel 6:3
In his book The Moral Compass, author William J. Bennett shared a story about an ancient Greek sculptor that reminds us of our need for consistent moral excellence.
“Long ago in ancient Greece, an aged sculptor was laboring over a block of stone. He carved with utmost care, poking the rock with his chisel, chipping away a fragment at a time, gauging the marks with sinewy hands before making the next cut. When it was finished, the piece would be hoisted high into the air and set on top of a towering shaft, and so would become the capital, or uppermost part, of a column. And the column would help support the roof of the lofty temple.
“‘Why spend so much time and effort on that section?’ asked a government official who passed by. ‘It will sit fifty feet high. No human eye will be able to see those details.’ The old artist put down his hammer and chisel, gazed steadily at his questioner, and replied: ‘But God will see it!’”1
Daniel, along with many other Jews, had been living in exile in Babylon for many years. During his long captivity, Daniel had been promoted to responsible positions in the government because of his “excellent spirit” and the wisdom and skills God had given him. At the time of today’s text, Daniel was made chief overseer and was promoted “over the whole realm.” The secret for his continued success through one administration after another was his allegiance to the God of Israel and his purpose to serve Him. Even his enemies could find no fault with his life.
Like the sculptor in the story above, Daniel was aware that God was always watching even when others were not. His integrity never wavered — his promotions, the changing political climate, and the jealousy of the other princes and presidents of the realm did not alter his behavior in the slightest. From his youth, Daniel had been faithful to pray and trust God, and he continued to do so. God meant more to him than his employment or political position.
Integrity and trustworthiness are qualities that will be noticed. Against a backdrop of conspiracy and corruption, Daniel’s sterling character and loyalty to God earned the respect of a pagan king. We can learn from his example. One of the best ways to influence unbelievers around us is to be sure we stay true to God and uphold the principles of righteous living outlined in His Word. We may face opposition — Daniel certainly did — but we will win the favor of God!
Chapter 6 highlights Daniel’s integrity and steadfast commitment to God during times of political change, jealous co-workers, and an inflexible legal system.
The final verse of chapter 5 alludes to Darius the Mede, who assumed control of the kingdom after Belshazzar of the Chaldeans was slain and the Babylonian Empire overthrown by the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C. The first verses of chapter 6 describe the new regent’s redistribution of administrative responsibilities in the realm. The princes of the Persian Empire were called “satraps” in Aramaic — a title for governors of a province or provinces. Over this group of 120, three presidents had supervisory authority, and of these three, Daniel was first because of the “excellent spirit” in him (verse 3). Daniel was likely over eighty years old at this time; he had endured through one idolatrous ruler and regime after another, standing out as a man governed by integrity that was rooted in his right relationship with God.
Those around Daniel had no real regard for truth, the nation, or the king. The words of the corrupt presidents and princes expose their manipulative and self-serving ways: they implied that Daniel could not be trusted because he was “of the children of the captivity of Judah.” The word translated assembled or assembled together in verses 6, 11, and 15 is in contrast to Daniel, who was alone in his stand, but steadfast in the knowledge that God was watching and would uphold him.
There are some notable differences between the accounts of taking a stand in chapters 3 and 6. The setting of chapter 3 is the Babylonian Empire, the order given was the king’s own command, the accusers were “certain Chaldeans,” and the accusation had to do with public worship and what was required (bowing to the image). Chapter 6 is set in the Persian Empire, the order given resulted from manipulation of the king, the accusers were government officials, and the accusation had to do with private worship and what was forbidden (prayer). The danger in chapter 6 was a lion’s den rather than the burning furnace of chapter 3. The differences highlight the reality that God watches in both public and private matters, whatever the context or challenge.
Daniel’s habit of regular times of prayer was both exemplary and rooted in longstanding Jewish tradition. While often the Old Testament posture for praying was standing, Daniel knelt, indicating humility and reverence.
The king was distraught when he realized the trap that had been set for a man he respected. However, the law could not be set aside, and according to Persian law, no pardon could be granted, in spite of the diligent efforts of the king.
II. The prophetic history of the Gentiles
E. The decree of Darius (the man of sin and his politico-religious system)
1. The prominence of Daniel (6:1-3)
2. The plot against Daniel (6:4-9)
3. The prayer of Daniel (6:10-11)
4. The proposal before the king (6:12-15)
“God will see it” is true of our every action and reaction. However, our lives must be lived with consistent faithfulness not only because God and others will observe us, but more importantly, because our love for God and the principles of His Word motivate our hearts and behavior.
1. William J. Bennett, “God Will See,” The Moral Compass (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 724.