"We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel
unless we find it in connection with the law of his God."
One of the major themes in the book of Daniel is the sovereignty of God. But, there are many sub themes woven through the story as a result of men's refusal to accept God's sovereignty over every area of their lives. When Daniel was about eighty years old, he was one of three high officials over King Darius' court. He became distinguished above all of the leaders. This was because Daniel had so much integrity that Darius knew he could trust him with much power. The rest of the high officials had to report to Daniel. When Darius planned to put Daniel over the entire kingdom, the pride in the other officials' hearts was tickled, stirring them to compare their positions with Daniel's and then their pride birthed jealousy. They wanted more, thought they deserved more, and they plotted to get more. They knew at some level they lacked something Daniel had so they watched him in an effort to find his faults. But when they couldn't, they became more jealous and plotted to attack Daniel's faith, noting he was a man of prayer gave them the ammunition they needed for a malicious plan of attack.
They went to King Darius with their plan that they knew would tickle kingly pride. They asked him to establish an irrevocable ordinance stating that for thirty days that whoever petitioned a god or any other man beside the king would be put to death. The king's pride was ignited. He signed the decree.
Even though Daniel knew the king signed the document, he faithfully did what he always did. He went to his upper chamber, and facing his beloved Jerusalem, he knelt in prayer. Oh, how I wish his prayers were recorded! We could learn so much from his prayer life. For over sixty years, he was held captive, serving in a foreign land. For sixty years, he consistently prayed--humbly meeting with his God.
The officials reported him to King Darius who was bound by the irrevocable ordinance. Darius threw him in a den of lions and remorse melted the pride that burned in the king's heart and he spent a sleepless night pacing. Upon arriving at the den the next morning, he saw that Jehovah had shut the mouths of every hungry lion in the den, sparing Daniel's life. Darius sentenced those who had drawn up the malicious plan and they were torn to shreds by the very lions who sat with Daniel through the night.
Oh, I long to be a Daniel in this culture I live in. But, I tend to be like the jealous officials. I was talking this week with a counselor friend about this issue of pride and how it plays out in my life. And he shared an illustration that is so graphic it made me smile. He said in comparison to God we are all just worms and we have this tendency to get our eyes off of God and start comparing ourselves to other worms. We think, "Oh, wow look at that worm, he has a pretty red stripe, I wish I had that. But at least I am not fat like that worm. Oh, wow, I am really glad I am not all fuzzy like that fellow. Oh, and that hook on that worm is just not stylish! Oh, and I wouldn't want to eat dung, at least I get to eat mulberry leaves and spin silk!" How often I am a worm comparing myself to other worms!
Who of us hasn't compared our bodies, our intelligence, our spiritual gifts, or our positions with those of others. Whether the comparisons are positive or negative, they tend to trigger our ugly friend pride. The pride that says, "I am all that!" as well as the pride that says, "I am not enough."
But, it was the Creator who made each of us, delicately designing us in just the right way. He was the one who distributed spiritual gifts and talents according to His infinite wisdom so we could fulfill our God-given purposes. When I am looking up and comparing myself to the Creator, I am humbled that He wants to use me, this worm, at all and I find myself content in fulfilling the plans He drew up for my life. In humility I can rise up and be a Daniel in this culture. In humility, the glory for who I am and what I accomplish goes to Him who deserves it.
It scares me to think that when I compare myself to others, I can be like malicious officials. Oh, I may not approach the president with a malicious plan, but I begin to covet things. I covet spiritual gifts God didn't deem best for me and I fail to use the ones He gave me. I covet positions God didn't ordain me to have and fail to fulfill the one He placed me in. I covet friendships others have and fail to nurture the beautiful ones God gave me. I covet ministries God didn't call me to and neglect the ones He placed in my care. I even find myself looking down on another, thinking that the gifts, callings, talents, healing, and friendships God has provided have somehow make be better than another.
Even scarier, is that in a prideful state, the tempter comes and I tend to bite...gossip, slander, stirring a pot of conflict, feeling bitter over slights, rejoicing in another's pain or judging another in a failure...oh it can get really, really ugly here when my eyes are on man instead of God.
So the solution lies in doing as Daniel did. Looking towards my true "home," comparing myself only to my Abba. There I can bask in the love shown on the cross. There His blood covers my ugly friend, pride, and the sins that are born out of it. There I am humbled and content to live life as He graciously scripted it. Basking in His love births contentment and along with it a desire to love as He loves, quieting the fleshly clamor for more recognition, more acceptance, more love, and more power.
I am learning to love the fact that His holiness exposes sin, the tendency to compare, unholy pride, and the tendency to love so poorly. For this exposure always brings me to my knees, draws my gaze upward where His holiness exposes my messy heart, and allows me to find my true joy in His lavish grace. How I hate that it seems to be all about pride, but, how I love that it is all about His grace!