The life of Daniel can be read in his own writings in the book of  Daniel and in Ezekiel  14:14, 20; 28:3; and Mark 13:14. There are some striking similarities between  the life of Daniel and that of Jacob’s son Joseph. Both of them prospered in  foreign lands after interpreting dreams for their rulers, and both were elevated  to high office as a result of their faithfulness to God.

After  Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, he chose of Israel’s royal  household noble men who were handsome and showed an aptitude for learning, to be  trained in the ways of the Babylonians. After their three years’ training, they  would be put into the king’s service (Daniel  1:1-6). Daniel, whose name means “God is my judge,” and his three countrymen  from Judea were chosen and given new names. Daniel became “Belteshazzar,”, while  Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah became “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” The  Babylonians believed that, by giving them new names that were completely  disassociated with their Hebrew roots, Daniel and his friends would become  subservient to their new rulers and the culture they now lived in.

Daniel and his compatriots proved to be the wisest of all the trainees, and at  the end of their training, they entered the service of King Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel’s first sign of faithfulness to God was when he and his countrymen  rejected the rich food and wine from the king’s table, because they deemed it a  defilement, and became vegetarians. As their health improved, they were  permitted to continue with their chosen diet. In their education, the four men  from Judah became knowledgeable in all Babylonian matters, and Daniel was given  by God the ability to understand dreams and visions of all kinds (Daniel 1:17).

In the second year of his reign,  Nebuchadnezzar was troubled with a dream that he could neither remember nor  interpret. His magicians and astrologers were unable to interpret a dream, much  less to know what the dream was. The king decreed that all the wise men,  including Daniel and his companions, must be put to death. However, after Daniel  sought God in prayer, the mystery of the king’s dream was revealed to Daniel,  and he was taken to the king to interpret it. Daniel immediately attributed his  ability to interpret dreams to the one true God (Daniel  2:28). The key feature of the dream, as Daniel told it to the king, was that  one day there will be a kingdom set up by God that will last forever, and that  it will destroy all previous kingdoms known to man (Daniel  2:44-45). With this, Daniel was honored by King Nebuchadnezzar and placed in  authority over all the wise men of Babylon. At Daniel’s request, his three  countrymen were also placed in positions of authority as administrators of  Babylon.

In time, King Nebuchadnezzar built a huge golden statue and  decreed that all his people bow down and worship it at the given signal. His  decree went on to say that whoever refused to bow down to it would be thrown  into a blazing furnace (Daniel 3:6).  Word reached the king that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not worshipping  his gods or the statue, and so they were summoned to Nebuchadnezzar’s court.  Faced with being thrown into a blazing furnace, the three faithfully announced  that their God could rescue them from the fire, but even if He did not, they  would not bow down to the image (vss. 16-18). The furnace was so hot, seven  times its normal heat, that the king’s soldiers were killed while putting the  three into it. Then Nebuchadnezzar saw that there were four men in the furnace,  completely unbound and walking about and that the fourth figure looked like he  was a son of a god (vs.25). When the king called them out of the furnace, he and  his governors were amazed to find that not a single hair of their heads had been  scorched, nor was there even the merest smell of fire about them.

King  Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream, and, not for the first time, he acknowledged  that Daniel had the spirit of his holy God within him and was able to interpret  his dream (Daniel 4:9).  Daniel’s interpretation of the dream was fulfilled, and, after a period of  insanity, Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his kingdom, and he praised and honored  Daniel’s God as the most High (Daniel  4:34-37).

Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, became the new king, and  during a banquet he ordered the gold and silver goblets that had been stolen  from the holy temple in Jerusalem to be brought out for use. In response to the  defilement of such holy items, Belshazzar sees a hand writing on the wall. Once  again, his astrologers are unable to assist him in its translation, and so  Daniel is called upon to interpret the writing (Daniel  5:13-16). As a reward for interpreting the writing, Daniel is promoted by  King Belshazzar to the third highest position in the Babylonian kingdom (vs.  29). That night, as Daniel had prophesied, the king was slain in battle, and his  kingdom was taken over by Cyrus the Great, and Darius the Mede was made  king.

Under the new ruler, Daniel excelled in his duties as one of the  administrators to such a degree that King Darius was contemplating making him  head over all the kingdom (Daniel  6:1-3). This infuriated the other administrators so much that they looked  for a way to bring Daniel down. They encouraged Darius to issue a decree  forbidding his subjects from praying to any of their gods for the next thirty  days. The penalty for disobeying was to be thrown into a den of lions. Daniel,  however, continued to pray so openly to God that he could be seen at his bedroom  window doing so. With much regret the king gave the order for Daniel to be  thrown into the lions’ den, but not without a prayer that Daniel’s God would  rescue him (Daniel  6:16). The next day when Daniel was found alive and well, he told the king  that God had sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths and so he remained  unharmed. This resulted in King Darius sending out a decree that all his  subjects were to worship the God of Daniel. And Daniel continued to prosper  throughout King Darius’ reign.

The lesson from the life of Daniel is  that he exercised great integrity and, in doing so, received the respect and  affection of the powerful rulers he served. However, his honesty and loyalty to  his masters never led him to compromise his faith in the one true God. Rather  than it being an obstacle to his success, Daniel’s continual devotion to God  brought him the admiration of the unbelievers in his circle. When delivering his  interpretations, he was quick to give God the credit for his ability to do so  (Daniel 2:28).

Daniel’s integrity as a man of God gained him favor with the secular world, yet  he refused to compromise his faith in God. Even under the intimidation of kings  and rulers, Daniel remained steadfast in his commitment to God. Daniel also  teaches us that, no matter who we are dealing with, no matter what their status  is, we are to treat them with compassion. See how concerned he is when  delivering the interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream (Daniel 4:19). As Christians, we are called to obey the  rulers and authorities that God has put in place, treating them with respect and  compassion; however, as we see from Daniel’s example, obeying God’s law must  always take precedence over obeying men.

As a result of his devotion,  Daniel not only found favor with those around him, but above all he found favor  with God and was held in high esteem by Him (Daniel  9:20-23). Notice also in those verses what the angel Gabriel told Daniel  about how swiftly the answer to his prayer was dispatched. This shows us how  ready the Lord is to hear the prayers of His people. Daniel’s strength lay in  his devotion to prayer and is a lesson for us all. It is not just in the bad  times but on a daily basis that we must come to God in prayer.