The Appetite of Excellence II

#MeditationMonday‬ – Out of the abundance of a man’s heart, his mouth speaks.

Welcome, dearly beloved. I pray the mercies of God over you throughout this week. I hope to encourage and build you up in the Lord. As you grow in knowledge and understanding, may you become empowered to share your convictions with others.

This blog post is a simple commentary on the book of Daniel, chapters 4–6. It has been written in a plain verse by verse commentary style and is meant to serve as a guide for future posts on the theme of excellence.

To begin from Chapters 1–3, click HERE.

As this is a verse-by-verse study, it is best to read this post with the actual bible text close by. On the other hand, if you are already very familiar with Daniel, then please jump in! It is quite a long read, but I hope it edifies everyone who comes across it.

Enjoy! Let’s go!

CHAPTER 4

vs. 1–27: Nebuchadnezzar sends a message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world about a dream. We are told in detail about this dream, how only Daniel could interpret it and Daniel’s interpretation of the dream. The King also sings praises to God, telling of His miraculous signs and wonders and declaring that His kingdom will last forever.

We will look at this in further detail.

vs.6-7: In this instance, the king discloses the dream before asking for an interpretation, unlike Chapter 2. Despite disclosing the dream, only Daniel could provide its interpretation because “the spirit of the holy gods” was in him (vs. 18).

vs.19: Although Daniel was afraid to say the meaning, he didn’t edit, twist or change the meaning of the dream. He did not consider lying about the dream to please the king. Instead, he told the king the true meaning of the dream and advised him to repent.

There’s a big lesson to be learned from Daniel’s honesty and integrity. We must speak the truth no matter who we are facing. We are servants of God not man, it is him we seek to please. We must not change the truth to suit the tastes of men (vs.27).

vs.16: Scripture shows here a contrast between the mind of a wild animal vs. the mind of a human. This is indicative of the war between the flesh and the spirit, one exercises self-control, the other does not.

If you’ve ever said to someone, “stop behaving like an animal”, it was probably because they were acting in a manner devoid of the fruit of the Spirit, i.e. patience, longsuffering/self-control, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness etc.

A wild animal cannot fix its mind on eternal things, it is concerned only about the flesh. This is why scripture encourages us to renew our minds with God’s word and not conform to the animalistic thinking of the world.

It is possible to be a human being with an animal’s mind, which eventually happens to king Nebuchadnezzar. Since he refused to act with a human mind and acknowledge God, God causes him to experience living like an animal (See Romans 1:21–23, 28).

vs.25: “Until you learn that the Most-High rules over kingdoms”. This is a testament to God’s sovereignty. It is also a symbol of what God was saying to Nebuchadnezzar.

I will humble you by leaving you to revel in your beastly desires, till you learn i.e. ACCEPT that I AM in control, not your flesh. You must submit i.e. YIELD to me. I gave you your kingdom and I can take it away, I gave you flesh and I can take it away. Let me rule, not these things.

God says the same things to us today. There are those who will live like animals until they “learn” God’s sovereignty. The word learn can be construed to mean “ACCEPT”.

Accept God’s sovereignty, or live like a beast. The choice is yours.

He who has an ear, let him hear.

vs.29-31: The king had twelve months to repent. He had time to heed Daniel’s advice but He didn’t. Instead, he continued to boast in his own power rather than acknowledging God.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent.

– II Peter 3:9 NLT

Although God is very patient with us, eventually the time for repentance will come to an end. Many have been graciously given time to repent of their faults but like king Nebuchadnezzar, they’ve refused to do so. Perhaps the king thought he had much time, but all he had was twelve months. Some of us have lesser time than that. We must get our act together and accept God’s mercy while there is still time.

v.34–37: When the king “looked up to Heaven”, his sanity returned. He learned that the Most High God rules over the kingdoms of the world and appoints anyone he desires to rule over them. (Daniel 5:21) He humbled himself and praised God. Like the prodigal son and Nebuchadnezzar, when we return to the Lord, we are blessed with greater honour than before (vs.36).

Scripture says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. For some, until they look up to heaven, putting their minds away from earthly things and unto heavenly things (aka. fear the Lord), sanity/wisdom will not be restored to them. They will continue to live life as beasts, surrendering to the impulses of their flesh.

CHAPTER 5

vs.1-10: The writing on the wall.

King Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, drinks from the sacred vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem, along with his nobles, wives and concubines. They praised idols while drinking from these vessels and in doing so blasphemed God. Although God gave permission for these things to be taken from the temple (See Daniel 1 vs. 2), by his actions this new king clearly had no humility or respect for God.

It is prideful to praise/credit idols for the things God provided. All the glory must be to the Lord. 

vs.7–11:  This is the second time Daniel is referred to as a man with the Spirit of the holy gods by unbelievers. His abilities were extraordinary, he could understand things that no-one else could. This means that true excellence is spiritual, it’s not just by hard work alone. Thanks to Jesus, all believers now have access to the excellent Spirit of God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. He will guide us into all truth!

v.11-13: Daniel was now about 88 years old. He apparently had been retired for some time and wasn’t known in Belshazzar’s court. The queen-mother spoke highly of Daniel’s wisdom for she knew he would be able to provide answers. He was a man who managed to live a pure and godly life even within the pagan court of Babylon.

v.14–16: The king said to Daniel, “I have heard that you are filled with….”. His reputation preceded him. Reputation matters in creating influence. Beloved, what have others heard about you? Especially important people (like the king). Like Job, has Satan got much to say about you to God? What do the Angels report about you? It’s all part of your excellence!

vs.17“Keep your gifts” Daniel had not only excellence but integrity. He did not use his heavenly gifts for the sake of amassing earthly wealth. Once again, just as he earlier chose to abstain from Nebuchadnezzar’s food, he also chooses to pass on Belshazzar’s gifts. For Daniel, gifts and abilities were not a means to prostitute himself (like Balaam: I will pay you, so curse these people for me), they were a means to glorify God in heaven.

vs.18-23: Daniel faithfully narrated to Belshazzar all that God did to king Nebuchadnezzar before interpreting the writing on the wall. Since Belshazzar knew the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, insanity, and conversion, yet failed to humble himself, giving honour the God who gave him the breath of life and controls his destiny, his defiance was willful, not ignorant.

This is a lesson for us today. We should not wait for God’s wrath before we humble ourselves. Just as king Nebuchadnezzar was a witness for king Belshazzar, we too must learn from the experiences of others.

As Paul said in Hebrews 12:1-2, we have “a great cloud of witnesses”. From studying the bible and seeing how these many witnesses lived their lives, we too should repent, humble ourselves and hope in God, boasting in Him while carefully running till we reach the finish line of life’s race.

vs.25-29: the writing on the wall and its interpretation are given by Daniel, after which he is made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

vs.30 – 6:1: the writing on the wall is fulfilled.

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, this king is given no time to repent as the events predicted by the writing on the wall are fulfilled that very night.

Although that was a specific judgment given to a particular king, today we can take the writing on the wall to be a warning to the “lukewarm” believer. MENE: repent or your days are numbered. TEKEL: if you are weighed on the scale and don’t measure up, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:16-18). PARSIN: your kingdom will be divided and shared to others: (parable of talents in Matthew 25:14–30).

CHAPTER 6

vs.1–2: Daniel was once again put in a position of leadership by the new king.

vs.2–3: Daniel’s abilities selected him for leadership positions, yet wherever he was placed, he always proved more outstanding than his peers – that is excellence, standing out because you’re “doing well whatever you find yourself doing”.

vs.3–4: Envy often arises in the face of excellence. People always search for the faults of others. Daniel’s service to the king is qualified by these characteristics: faithful, responsible, completely trustworthy. Can the same be said about us by our colleagues at work or church? Will God’s testimony about you contain similar words? “Well done, good and faithful servant” or “Depart from me, worker of iniquity, I never knew you”

vs.4–5: Daniel lived a faultless life. Nothing could be found with which to condemn him regarding his job as a government official. Therefore, they turned to his religion to find grounds to accuse him. Can you be so blameless that all you can be accused with is in connection to Jesus?

“You take this Jesus thing too seriously”, “You pray too much”, “You’re too conservative” etc. Your religion has made you close-minded”

vs.7–9: The king was persuaded and a law was passed. Nobody was to pray to anyone else for the next 30 days.

The lawmakers purposely put Daniel at crossroads, knowing he would choose his life! Now that is some serious excellence goals right there. Can your excellence make you so predictable that it becomes your vulnerability?

Either obey the law and lose your integrity or disobey and lose your life.” 

Little did the lawmakers know that Daniel would keep both his integrity and his life. 

vs.10: Daniel chose to obey God than man (Acts 5:28-29).

You see it was just 30 days. They all had their different gods, but decided that worship to those gods could wait. But not Daniel. Oh no, for he knew the living God and his knowledge told him that worship to the living God could not be put on hold for anything.

If he didn’t praise, the rocks would cry out.

Not on his watch. 

So up, up and away, Daniel went to pray! The “upstairs room” was a symbol of isolation for devotion; just as Jesus would often chase away the crowds to be by himself and commune with the father. The number of times Daniel prayed is not the focus here, the point is that Daniel did as usual; as he had always done, kneeling down to offer thanksgiving to God.

Likewise, we must never compromise our faith due to circumstance.

Are you ready to keep fellowshipping with God and other believers, if it goes against the law? Are you ready to endure the persecution that comes with following Jesus?

What if a law is suddenly passed declaring that you must not pray for the next 30 days? Will it even make a difference at all in your prayer life, because as you can see, Daniel clearly had a prayer life, that’s why the law worked against Him.

Can laws be passed today that will affect your version of Christianity? Or are you living as a servant of God in name only?

If such a law is passed today, will your “as usual” response be “sure! no prayer for 30 days”  or will you be visiting the “upstairs room” come lion’s den, hell or high water?

SELAH

(meaning: pause and think about that)

vs.11–12: Daniel was caught praying and immediately reported to the king.

vs.13–14: “The king was deeply troubled.” Ha ha, you just hate to see it. Man like the king you know! He was troubled, not angry! Not over his family member but over a mere servant, simply because the valued him that much. He knew Daniel would be difficult to replace.

All because excellence makes you valuable no matter where you are! The king began to think of a way to save him. A way to save a servant, who had rightfully committed a crime and broken the law!

Can you imagine the shock on their faces as the king abandoned his royal duties, searching through all the laws of the land, looking for a way to “save the Jewish servant”. A servant from a different ethnic background! It would have been a scandal that rocked the royal court indeed. “Tufiakwa, Alu, Abomination”, The responses and whispers would have spread through the palace! The king has gone mad, surely he knows there’s nothing he can do! The law is final, it cannot be revoked. (vs.15)

This is the same way the scandal of salvation would have rocked the kingdom of heaven. How they whispered amongst themselves, in between singing Holy Holy Holy; What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that thou visitest him? (Psalm 8:4-8) Why are you deeply troubled? Why do you care for them so much? How could you go so far out of your way just to save them, when they don’t even deserve it.

Unlike the king who could find no escape for Daniel, our Lord Jesus becomes the way, truth and life for us, our salvation. 

God deemed it fit that the king could not save Daniel, so that all glory may return to the One whom Daniel truly served. Like the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5:25-34, sometimes men will have no solution to your matter because God has taken it upon himself to come to your rescue, for His hands are not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear! (Isaiah 59:1).

vs.16The king “prayed” for Daniel and “encouraged” him – “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” He refused the usual entertainment and fasted all night (vs.18). From this, we see the king, an unbeliever acting more biblically than Christians of today!

Do we encourage those who are facing difficult situations? Or are we just there to add more gas to the fire like Job’s friends did? Do we pray for the innocent to be saved? Talk less of the guilty in prisons or those on death row?

We ought to react just as the king did for Daniel. We ought to pray and encourage those who are facing the lion’s den, whether they be guilty or innocent.

vs.17: A stone was placed over the mouth of the den so that “no-one could rescue Daniel”. Ah, but they would soon discover that Daniel served a God who couldn’t be stopped by a mere stone! Like the stone at the grave of Jesus, this stone too would become proof of supernatural deliverance. If he was shut-in, yet survived, then it truly was not by human means! Daniel’s deliverance was supernatural, and they would all become first-hand witnesses of it.

vs.19–20: The king had probably done his research all night on the God of Daniel, by morning, He was hoping to experience this God for himself – “was YOUR God, whom you serve SO FAITHFULLY able to rescue you from the lions?” 

Daniel was known for his faithful service to God! He was a “good and faithful” servant. (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:23) Can the same be said about you? Everywhere you go, do men recognize you for faithfully serving God? Better still, will God recognize you for faithfully serving Him? Many want titles – prophet, pastor, evangelist, reverend, but have no “faithfulness” to back it up. Is your life filled with pointers to Him? or is your service in name dropping alone?

SELAH

(meaning: pause and think about that)

vs.21–22: The first thing Daniel does is greet the king, not demand for his immediate release from that horrible place, but pay his respects to the very king who signed a law that put him there. That’s integrity, that’s excellence.

The law was created precisely because they knew Daniel wouldn’t obey it. He was ready to give his life for what he believed in, and they were counting on that. What they weren’t counting on was God’s power to save.

Just like the three boys in the fiery furnace, God’s angel shut the mouths of the lions so they wouldn’t hurt Daniel, for He was found innocent in God’s sight. And truly, not a scratch was found on him, for he trusted in his God. 

Notice how God doesn’t stop them from experiencing these things, the fire did not disappear, nor did the lions suddenly die. Nor was it the case that they were suddenly rescued BEFORE they had to face the fire or the lions. In fact, things got much worse, the fire was heated up 7 times, a stone was placed to block Daniel’s escape. God made it so there was no other way out but through the fire, through the lions and through the wilderness YET, He was present with them throughout (See Isaiah 43:2; Exodus 13:21).

God’s promise of deliverance is HIS PRESENCE. That is why Jesus is given the name “Emmanuel”, God with us and why we were given the Holy Spirit upon His ascension. There is deliverance in God’s presence. You emerge from fires unscathed, from Lions unharmed and from the valley of the shadow of death, alive (Psalm 23:4).

Often times we expect God to save us from trouble, to prevent the trouble before it happens, but His promise is that His presence is with us through the trouble, all we have to do is trust in God and exercise patient endurance (James 1:4).

Just as His presence is the promise of deliverance; perseverance is the prelude to our salvation.

“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.” – When I first read this, I wondered, what in the world is Daniel saying now! But I have been going over this again and again. Why would He say this?

Because the law was wrong.

The law was created to entrap him. To awaken sin in him.

Daniel was right to disobey this law.

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. – Deuteronomy 6:5 [NLT]

Daniel knew Deuteronomy 6:5 by heart. If He had obeyed the king’s law, the real punishment would be the loss of his relationship with God.

Daniel chose to disobey an earthly law and face an earthly punishment than obey an earthly law and face eternal punishment.

Can one be innocent in heaven and guilty on earth? No! The earth may call them guilty, but they are innocent indeed. Since Daniel was found innocent under God’s greater law, he could boldly state that he had not wronged this earthly king!

vs.23: Daniel was not harmed for He trusted in HIS GOD, the same as the boys in the fiery furnace. The appetite of excellence is trust in God. Daniel was a man of faith. Excellence requires several leaps and bounds of faith! To be excellent you must KNOW your God. Know, like a woman knows her husband, like we know the sound of our own voices or the palms of our hands, believing fully, trusting and obeying recklessly.  Those who know their God will be strong and do exploits. This, along with the fiery furnace are amongst the exploits of faith recorded in Hebrews 11:33–34.

vs.24: Daniel’s enemies are crushed, along with their entire families. “the lions leapt on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.” The Lord completely wipes out those who accuse the innocent. The lawmakers tried to use the “if you can’t beat them, join them” strategy on Daniel, but it did not work.

Daniel beat them without ever having to shake hands with them!

vs.25–27: Their plans of evil worked out for good (Romans 8:28). Once again, every nation and race throughout the world is commanded to serve Daniel’s God. Juxtapose this with Nebuchadnezzar’s similar command + the fiery furnace.

It all reveals that we really can change the world when we live by faith in God, trusting and obeying him in everything we do. Daniel’s decision not to compromise resulted in God getting worldwide glory. Small action, big impact.

Brethren, your excellence is beyond you, it can impact generations, become the testament to your faith and most of all bring glory to God. Yes! Our lifestyle of excellence can become the way we evangelise and influence people in great positions without saying anything, just as Daniel did with the king.

Here’s the king’s witness to the nations:

“For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 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.”

Look at an unbeliever’s great testimony of God. A whole king, not just anyone was saying this, but a king, whose influence spanned the whole world at the time. Now anybody in trouble would be sure to run to the God the king spoke of for help.

vs.28: Daniel prospered during his reign, excellence is the preamble to prosperity.

SELAH

Alright, there goes our commentary on chapters 4–6 of Daniel. Hope it’s been a joyful ride. I will update the remaining chapters in more blog posts, so watch out for those. If you made it this far, and actually read through, that’s amazing. I hope you were edified in one way or another! God bless you.

Grace & Peace!

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