A Portrait of Daniel


Daniel 1:1-21

Please turn with me to Daniel chapter 1.


This past Father’s Day Lisa and the girls gave me a copy of “The Scots Worthies” by John Howie.  Howie, born in 1735 and died in 1793, lived all his days in relative obscurity in Ayrshire, the southwest of Scotland which, in earlier times, had been the scene of many notable events in the history of the Covenanters.


He devoted himself to compiling this fascinating volume of cameo pen-portraits of a number of covenanters.  But his concern was more than historical.  He recognized the power of Christian biography to instruct and inspire and to exemplify the outworking of the grace of God in human life.  His chief aim was to write in such a way that readers would be encouraged to grasp the heroic, sacrificial and glorious nature of life consecrated unreservedly to Christ!


“What better way to bring a Christian child to aspire to spiritual greatness than to set before him or her heroes of the church’s past and a picture of godliness and fortitude in flesh and blood.  It is the Bible’s own way to train up children in the faith…”  Dr. Rayburn  Re: ‘Trial & Triumph” [Richard Hannula]


This morning and evening we will consider one such hero our Bible furnishes for us so that we might gain instruction and inspiration to live a life more consecrated to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


Follow along as I read Daniel 1:1-21.


Three character qualities leapt off the pages at me.



  1. His humility.
  2. His unimpeachable service to foreign kings.
  3. His indefatigable, irretractable public allegiance to his God.


We’ll consider his humility this morning and leave the other two for this evening.


“In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.  So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed.” Daniel 2:1-2


The wise men were not prepared for this.  Normally the king would tell them his dream and ask for the interpretation.  On this occasion he wanted both—tell me my dream and then give the interpretation.


“If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.”  Daniel 2:5


There was incredible tension among the wise men.  No one could do it, so they began to round up all the wise men to have them executed.  Daniel received special permission from the king to pray over the matter and seek an answer from his God.  God granted him the dream and interpretation of it during the night and so he goes to Nebuchadnezzar.  Listen to their exchange:


“Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”


‘Daniel replied, “No wiseman, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.  …..as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O King, may know the interpretation…”’  Daniel 2:27, 28, 30


In this episode we see him relying not on himself but on God – quick to give praise to God for answering his prayer and just as quick to abase himself and credit God before Nebuchadnezzar.


Wonder expression of humility!  A large part of humility is God-dependence, God-reliance, and God-boasting.  I began to consider the things in Daniel’s life that could have tempted him to be self-reliant, arrogant, and puffed up and the more I thought about it, the more overwhelmed I was.  If anybody had occasions, temptations and trials in their life to be proud, it was Daniel.  But he seems to remain humble in spite of his privileges, positions of power, human praise, a well circulated good reputation and in spite of beholding heavenly visions.


His life instructs and inspires us to pursue humility in spite of ….



  1. Privilege



  1. birth, v.3, chosen from among royalty or nobility, influential, popular, renown, successful, heritage to be proud of, wielding some power—socially, politically, economically.  ‘I am from the house and line of so and so.’  Do you come from a family of standing?  I’m related to ________.  A boasting point.  Alexandre Dumas, Three Musketeers, Count of Monte Cristo, Man in the Iron Mask.


  1. appearance, v. 4, without any physical defect, handsome.  The Bible very rarely draws attention to man’s good looks, far more so with women.


Daniel, how did you deal with attractive women stealing a second glance as you shopped in the market place?  How did you keep from getting a big head when Nebuchadnezzar’s servant girls fussed over who gets to wait on you as you served and advised the king?



  1. mental giftedness, v. 4, showing aptitude for every:


  • kind of learning (all kinds of literature, mathematics, languages, philosophy, etc.)
  • well informed (could make a great conversationalist)
  • quick to understand—he was a genius!


Daniel, how do you keep from coming across like “I know more than you do?” 



  1. elite school, chosen out of a group to prepare for the king’s service; after three years of training King Nebuchadnezzar examined them and found them peerless, v. 20, ten times better than all the rest of the magicians and enchanters of his whole kingdom; all four graduated summa cum laud.  Daniel, most likely valedictorian.

[West Point—connected/affiliated with people of renown: General Washington, S. Jackson, R.E. Lee, U.S. Grant, D. MacArthur, D. Eisenhower; Whistler-painter; E. Allen Poe; The Long Gray
 Line]


The temptation to put your trust/confidence in your privileges must have been overwhelming at times!


His life instructs and inspires us to pursue humility in spite of…



  1. His Powerful Position



  1. Ten times better than the rest of the ‘wisemen’ in the kingdom the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers.  Daniel 2:2


  1. 605-562, 43 yrs.—Nebuchadnezzar’s reign 

Served in Nebuchadnezzar’s royal court.  Nebuchadnezzar at that time the single most powerful man in the known world.  “Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him.  He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”  Daniel 2:48


“Nebuchadnezzar was by far the most famous of all the kings of the east.  In his early years, and before he came to his great throne, Nebuchadnezzar had won victory after victory over all the surrounding nations.  Jerusalem fell before his army after 18 months siege.  Tyre, the proudest of ancient cities, succumbed to him after an investiture of 13 years.


But the fame of this magnificent monarch rested even more on his unparalleled works of peace.  Great as Nebuchadnezzar was as a warrior, he was still greater as a statesman and an administrator.  The vast public works that he planned and executed for his capital and kingdom in walls and in water works; in parks and in gardens (hanging gardens, seven wonders of the world); in palaces and in temples—all these things, in their vastness, in their usefulness, in their beauty, and in their immense cost make Nebuchadnezzar to stand out absolutely unapproached among the great builder/kings of the ancient east.”  A. Whyte 407-408



  1. 549-539 —  Belshazzar’s reign 

“…at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”  Daniel 5:29 [read 5:17 opportunity to regain status] [first meet Daniel age 13-17, now 66 years later, 83ish



  1. 605 B.C. after 539 – Darius’ reign 

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule     throughout the kingdom, with three administrators (presidents) over them, one of whom was Daniel…  Daniel so distinguished himself… that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”  Daniel 6:1-3



  1. 539 B.C. Cyrus the Persian  Daniel 6:28


Pursue humility regardless of your position of power.
            –corporation
            –how high up the corporate ladder we’ve climbed
            –how many people we have reporting to us and are dependent on our decisions
            –how much more money we make


Daniel, the temptation to distance/disassociate yourself and frown on people beneath you must have been acute at times.


His life instructs and inspires us to pursue humility in spite of …



  1.  Praise — It is one thing to occupy a position of power, it is another to be competent and successful at it—and Daniel was and received lots of praise.



  • Nebuchadnezzar– After Daniel revealed and interpreted the dream of chapter 2 “Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him.”

What was going through your head and heart Daniel, when the most powerful king of the most dominating nation was paying you homage and now he’s at your feet!  Were you tempted to forget God?




    • Nebuchadnezzar  “I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in  you, and no mystery is too difficult for you.”  Daniel 4:9




    • Belshazzar  “I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom…”  Daniel 5:14  “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.”  Proverbs 27:21  “When thou hast said or done anything for which thou receivest praise or estimation, take it indifferently, and return it to God; reflecting upon Him as the giver of the gift, or the blesser of the action, or the aid of the design: and give God thanks for making thee an instrument of his glory, or the benefit of others.”  Puritan-Jeremy Taylor

Daniel’s life instructs and inspires us to pursue humility in spite of having a well circulated, good reputation.




  1. Good Reputation



    • Belshazzar’s queen  “There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods I him—he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. ….he was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems.”  Daniel 5:11-12




    • Ezekiel—a contemporary, deported in 597, 8 years later  “…if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath upon it through bloodshed, killing its men an their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter.  They would save only themselves by their righteousness.”  Daniel’s name was synonymous with righteousness and wisdom throughout the empire.

“Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre…’Are  you wiser than Daniel?  Is no secret hidden from you?’”  Ezekiel 28:3




    • Gabriel the angel.  “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.  As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.”  Daniel 9:22-23  “…Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed…”  Daniel 10:19

This man was highly esteemed in heaven and on earth.  High praise indeed.  Would that puff you up?  He called me ‘highly esteemed’.


Finally, he remained humble…



  1. In spite of Heavenly Visions


To see the Ancient of Days taking His seat, His clothing as white as snow, the hair on His head was white like wool.  His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.  A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him.  Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him…  I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him…”  Daniel 7:9, 10, 13, 14


He saw angels!  He saw the end! Consummation!  He saw two members of the Holy Trinity!  He saw the Ancient of Days give authority, glory and sovereign power to the Son of Man!”  “…I kept the matter to myself.”  Daniel 7:28.  There was no “thorn in the flesh” necessary to keep Daniel from becoming conceited.


If ever there was a man who had occasions, temptations, and trials to be proud and self-reliant and forgetful of God all his life, it was Daniel.


“Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”  Daniel replied, “No wiseman, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he asked about, BUT  there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.  …As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, [Oh, yes you do, ten times as much], but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation.” 


To God alone be the glory.  Soli Deo Gloria.  Amen