As we close out this look at the book of Daniel, I want to focus in on what the power of excellence truly is. I think we’ve seen some cool things already this week, but watch just how incredibly far Daniel’s reputation for excellence carries him.
The thing that Daniel is most famous for is ending up in the lion’s den. If you grew up in church, you almost certainly heard that story. As one such person, I never actually knew why Daniel was thrown in there. It’s not vitally important to my point today, but just to give you a little info, as Daniel gains more recognition in the kingdom, the locals start to get uneasy. Here’s this foreigner, this captive, and all of a sudden the king is relying on him and offering him some amazing gifts. So these jealous folks figure out a way to get Daniel thrown into the lion’s den as in his devotion to God he has broken an obscure rule. Even though the king doesn’t like it, as he’s come to respect and rely upon Daniel, he agrees that a rule has been broken and Daniel is tossed into the lion’s den.
Daniel 6:17-20 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. 19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”
This king was not a follower of God, but look at what happened here. He didn’t walk to the lion’s den that next morning sad and dejected. He hurried. If he was expecting to find a dead body in there, why would he run? Daniel’s excellence, his reputation, and by association, the reputation of his God, had built within this king the expectation that God (who he didn’t follow) had been able to somehow save Daniel from these starving lions. The king hurries over there, and I think it’s very telling to see that he refers to Daniel’s god as the “living God”.
We’re just gonna let the Bible tell the rest of the story here, as it’s much better at it than I am. Here’s how this whole thing closes out.
Daniel 6:21-28 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. 24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den. 25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:
“Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
There are like 40 things in the scripture I could write about. King Darius sent the message to every race and nation throughout the world. There were multiple translations of this letter for all the different languages and look at what it proclaimed. The God of Daniel is the living God, and he will endure forever. The king of the nation that at that time was one of the most powerful nations in the world sent that message to every place he possibly could. Why? First of all, God gets all the glory, don’t forget that. Daniel was excellent BECAUSE he had God inside of him.
But this whole series of events never would’ve happened had Daniel not worked hard and been excellent at the simple stuff. He was an exile forced into work for the enemies that just defeated his nation. Any one of us would understand if he went in there and was a slacker, but that wasn’t his approach. He committed himself to excellence, even in crappy work conditions. And his excellence built a reputation, and the fact that he continued to excel kept the reputation intact. It not only made him known, but it elevated him to higher positions, where more and more people knew of his reputation, and in turn, the reputation of his God. It got him an audience with the king, gave him a chance to display the power of God to the most powerful man in the country. It built within those kings an expectation that the God of Daniel was the true living God, and it led to that very truth being proclaimed across the world. That’s what excellence can do. That’s what standing out and stepping forward and truly, actively letting your light shine can accomplish.
The next time you feel a little unseen, that you feel as if what you’re doing in the place you’re doing it doesn’t really matter, I want to encourage you to remember Daniel. Remember how a foreign captive who was forced into work for his captors ended up causing the king of that nation to proclaim God’s sovereignty and power all around the world. It’s a Bible event that makes it crystal clear that if we’re living right and working diligently at being excellent in all things, there is no limit to what God can do through us. That’s just as true for the pastor as it is for the McDonald’s worker. God did it with slaves and prisoners and captives and old man shepherds and young shepherd boys and so many more. And He can and will do it with you, too.
Well, that is it for the book of Daniel and for this week. I appreciate you guys for coming along for the ride, I had a ton of fun digging into this concept in the Bible and seeing it come alive. I love you all very much and as we head into the weekend I hope you have a safe and wonderful time. If you have any prayer requests or just want/need to talk, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will see you guys on Monday as we do something pretty unprecedented around here and actually begin a study of a New Testament book!