Daniel 1: Living out our calling – because our Lord reigns
This is the first in a series of four blogs introducing the themes we’ll explore at our forthcoming Daniel Bible Day and Evenings – looking at Daniel’s wi...
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
As I write this piece, the news is fixated on the James T Webb telescope, which has successfully deployed its sunshield and various working parts post-launch. It’s poised to look more deeply into the universe than ever before.
There is a particular delight for Christians here. We believe in Jesus, the Word who created all we can see, and much that we cannot. Many of us eagerly await what new worlds, stars, and galaxies will now come into focus. The astonishing fact is that although we have so far not been able to see these stars, they have existed since the beginning of time. Though unseen by us, in their brilliance, diversity, and physical order they point to God’s glory.
There is a striking verse towards the end of the book of Daniel that picks up on this theme: ‘Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.’ (Daniel 12:3) Was Daniel reflecting on his long career as a senior civil servant in Babylon and wisely pointing out the benefits of a faithful life well lived? Well no, not really. The point is not the glory ‘wise people’ can get for their wisdom. It’s the glory God receives from truly wise living.
This point is picked up by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church and developed for a new covenant context:
Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe – as you hold firmly to the word of life.
The wisdom to which both Daniel and Paul were pointing their hearers is compared to the stars, in the sense that they too point to their creator. As women and men of the Lord we are called to shine, not to receive praise for the good things we may do or say in life, but to reflect God’s glory in us as people who have been created and redeemed to live for him in everything we do. Daniel knew that this was the way to lead people to righteousness and to please the Lord God. Paul builds on this and speaks of Christians who live this way ‘holding to the word of life’. In other words, commending the gospel, the good news that brings life and purpose and meaning.
More striking still in Daniel’s life is that it was not all plain sailing. In chapter 5 we find him discredited, unemployed, and forgotten. He was no longer at the centre of power. The young king was having a party, living it up and drinking out of the sacred vessels dedicated to the God of Israel – a nation he thought he had subdued forever. Suddenly the party was ruined, not by a whistleblower, but by writing that mysteriously appeared on the wall. It turned out that the only person who could interpret what was going on was that forgotten civil servant, Daniel.
The King’s mother sent for him, and from obscurity he came back once again. Did he take the opportunity to shore up his position and make sure he never fell out of favour again? No – he declared to King Belteshazzar and then to his successor King Darius that wisdom, true wisdom, comes from the Lord, the creator of the universe. Shining like a star – to the glory of God.
Daniel’s story with its twists, and turns is not unlike our own stories. Our work, lives, and careers are seldom straightforward. From Daniel’s perspective, through the ups and downs, the secret to a long-lasting and fruitful career seems to be being clear on one’s meaning and purpose in life. In other words, having a daily and deep relationship with the one who put those stars into space in the first place.
Work Forum Director, LICC