Summary: Certain men stand out in the Bible — Abraham, Moses, King David, the apostle Paul. Another godly man, Daniel, gives us a composite picture of the qualities one would expect to see in a true man of God. Let’s see what we can learn from him to apply to our lives.
First some background: Daniel had been deported from Judah to Babylon in 605 B.C., while Nebuchadnezzar was ruler of Babylon. During his many years there, and in recognition of his splendid character, his wisdom, and his sensitivity to the Spirit of God, Daniel was elevated into high leadership roles in the Babylonian government. He finished out his life in the land of captivity and left for the biblical record a remarkable testimony of the life of a man of God. Let’s look at some of his characteristics, which would be wise for us to integrate into our own lives.
Daniel 1:8, 12, 15 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way…  “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink” …  At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
• Temperance — Daniel could have feasted on the royal food and wine, but he chose a ten-day period of only vegetables and water.
• Avoiding defilement — Although we are not given the details, he perceived that he would be “defiled” by the royal food and wine. So he appealed to the chief official for permission to avoid that food and its defilement.
1:17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
• Education in natural things — As with Daniel, it can be a good thing if we receive training in the literature and learning of our culture and the world in which we are living for the Lord. But note that this education was guided by God — “God gave [them] knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.” Education in secular subjects can be used to advantage if the student allows God to guide and oversee the entirety of the learning process.
• Sensitivity to God’s revelations — “Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” And this spiritual sensitivity allowed him to advance in his roles of godly leadership in the Babylonian kingdom.
2:19-23 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
• A spiritual man — We have seen (1:17) that God gave Daniel understanding of visions and dreams. Here that spiritual insight is used to interpret the king’s dream of the great statue in detail. And through it all, he gave 100% of the praise and honor to God, who had revealed the interpretation.
2:27-28 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these…
• Bold confession — Living among heathen people in a heathen culture, Daniel boldly declared to the king that none of the heathen diviners, magicians, etc., could interpret the vision, but that the God of heaven could! If these words had displeased Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel might have been immediately executed, yet he maintained his steadfast confidence in God before the king. In this instance, thankfully, Daniel’s bold witness impressed the king, who declared (vs. 47), “I’m sure your God is the greatest God of all. He is the Lord of kings…” So the king exalted Daniel into a position of authority in the city of Babylon (48).
2:30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
• Humility! — “Not because I…” Daniel properly deflected any praise and honor away from himself, here and throughout his life, and pointed his hearers to God Almighty.
2:48-49 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. Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
• Loyal to his friends — When the king appointed Daniel ruler over all the province of Babylon, Daniel remembered his three friends, who had been deported from Judah with him. Daniel interceded for them with the king, and the three friends were appointed to prominent positions as well.
4:27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.
• No respecter of persons! — Daniel had interpreted another dream, which had ominous warnings for King Nebuchadnezzar. Then Daniel boldly exhorted the king to repent and to renounce his wicked ways. This reminds me of a similar, earlier incident, when the prophet Elijah rebuked King Ahab for having forsaken the commandments of the Lord and for turning to idolatry (1 Kings 18:17-18). Like God, the man or woman of God does not play favorites — “God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34).
5:16-17 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
• Does not commercialize the things of God — The king offered Daniel great gifts, honor, and status if Daniel would interpret the mysterious handwriting on the wall (vs. 5). But Daniel refused to profit materially by the gift God had given him to understand visions and dreams.
• Sad to say, both in our day and in the days in which the Bible was written, there have been those who “peddle the word of God for profit” (2 Corinthians 2:17) and other, similar strategies to “make merchandise” of God’s people (2 Peter 2:3).
• By contrast, the pastor who most influenced my life made a regular habit of turning preaching honorariums back into the home church that sent him out to preach. He reasoned (admirably, I believe!) that the home church covered his travel expenses, so he declined to keep offerings given to him in traveling ministry, but rather returned them to the home church. That way, he could just as easily accept an invitation to preach in a church of 30 members as in a church of 500 members, because there was no personal financial incentive involved. I greatly admired this practice of his. Even today, retired and 89 years of age, Pastor Dick Benjamin remains an amazing role model to thousands.
6:1-4 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.
• Does his job well — Daniel’s “exceptional qualities” so distinguished him among the leaders that King Darius considered setting him over the entire kingdom. Other jealous leaders tried to find grounds to charge Daniel in the performance of his governmental duties. But he was found to be entirely trustworthy and without corruption or negligence in all his work.
• Sadly, I have seen some Christians take a casual, sometimes even lazy, approach to their jobs. This is entirely inconsistent with the splendid example set by the man of God Daniel in the accomplishment of his job. As Christians, we should approach each day at work as an opportunity to live out a testimony that favorably impacts those around us.
6:7, 10-11 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den…  Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.
• A man of prayer — Daniel seems to have had an exemplary habit of getting on his knees and praying to God three times a day.
• Will not compromise out of fear — The king’s edict sentenced to the lion’s den anyone who prayed for the next 30 days to any god or human other than to the king himself. Daniel, the man of God, ignored this unrighteous edict and continued praying to God Almighty, “just as he had done before.”
6:19-23 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
• A clear conscience — From the lion’s den, Daniel could rightly say to the king that he was innocent before God and before the king. The apostle Paul likewise tried to live this out in his own life — “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16, KJV).
• A good testimony with others — Daniel lived such a godly life before all that even the king could call him “Daniel, servant of the living God” (vs. 20).
7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
• He heard from God throughout his lifetime. This sensitivity to God’s voice was surely influenced for good by his apparently lifelong practice of prayerfulness (vs. 10).
9:1-2 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom — in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.
• A student of the Scriptures — While still in captivity, Daniel studied the Scriptures, specifically Jeremiah the prophet’s words (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10). There he discovered that the length of the captivity in Babylon would be 70 years. And, as would be expected from a prophecy of Scripture, that is precisely the length of time that the captivity lasted.
• Like Daniel, we too should spend time daily in God’s word. At age 71, I still enjoy a daily time of Bible study with my wife. And we open that time in prayer, with a request that God illuminate the word to us and that we continue to grow in our faith in these later years of our lives.
9:3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
• Prayer, petition, and fasting will characterize the godly man. Daniel had just gotten the revelation from Scriptures about the 70-year length of the captivity. So he set himself to praying, fasting, repenting before God for Judah’s and Israel’s sins, and then appealing for national forgiveness and a return of God’s blessing upon Judah and Israel.
• As America and our 21st-century world seem to be declining into increasing godlessness and wickedness, it is urgent that men and women of God undertake times of prayer, fasting, repenting, and petitioning the Lord on behalf of our cities and our nations.
9:18-20 “Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill…
• Godly attitudes in prayer — humility, repentance, and putting God’s interests first.
10:1-3 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
• Given to self-denial — In a vision, Daniel was told of a great war to come. He immediately dedicated himself for three weeks to mourning, self-denial, and humbling himself before God (vs. 12). Remember how, as a young man, Daniel had denied himself the king’s luxurious food and wine (1:8). Jesus exhorted His followers to a life of self-denial (Luke 9:23), taking up our cross daily and following Him. In practical application, self denial causes us to pursue God’s interests and the interests of other people over our own — in sum, loving God and our neighbor by our actions.
12:13 As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.