Daniel was so valuable that after Nebuchadnezzar passed, Daniel remained in the court of Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, and Darius, the king of the Medes. While leaders of the empire changed, Daniel was steadfast in his position—and found great success in the providence of his God—despite the threats that came against him for his religious devotion.
Daniel 5-6 again displays God’s jealousy for His glory in the lives of the exiles. In Daniel 5, God humbled and eliminated Belshazzar—through the prophecy of Daniel. While Belshazzar and company were making merry, a mysterious finger began to write on the plaster wall of the king’s palace; the sight so horrified the king “that his hip joints shook and his knees knocked together” (Dan 5:6). Like his father Nebuchadnezzar, when Belshazzar was in a crisis of this sort, he called on the interpreters of his court to give the meaning of the sign. But, as had been the case with his father, no one could. The king’s angst was calmed by his wife—who reminded the king that he had an as-of-yet untapped resource for his dilemma, Daniel. Though Belshazzar promised Daniel further prominence if he could interpret the inscription, the young Hebrew gave the interpretation without fee and straightaway. Because Belshazzar had exalted himself against the Lord, the Lord had numbered the days of the king’s reign and would soon give his expansive domain into the hands of the Medes and Persians (Dan 5:17-28).
Though Darius the Mede (Ezra 4-6; Neh 12:22; Hag 1:1; Zech 1:1) threatened Daniel, the Lord rescued His servant (Daniel 6). Daniel refused to pray to Darius, choosing instead to enter his house, open his windows toward Jerusalem, “and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God” (Dan 6:10). Daniel was thrown to the lions for this crime against the state. The next morning, the king was overjoyed at the sound of Daniel’s voice, knowing that the other officials had conspired against the young Hebrew. Daniel prospered in the king’s court during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar of Babylon, and Cyrus and Darius of Persia (Dan 6:28).
In the storyline of Scripture, Daniel’s role in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius established a theocentric grid for Christian behavior toward the state. Daniel’s counsel about the affairs of people and nations was couched in God’s revelation of Himself in the books of Moses, the writings, and the other prophets of Israel. For the apostles, the advent of the kingdom of God in Christ and salvation for all peoples through faith in Him shaped instructions for Christian behavior toward secular authorities.
(1) As a general practice, Christians should honor governing authorities. In Romans 9-11, Paul described God’s sovereignty over the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. In Rom 13:1-7, Paul applied the same theological grid to the political situation of his day, arguing that all people should submit to the governing authorities as those instituted by God. Since God appoints secular leaders and their administrations to uphold righteousness and punish evil, rebellion against these authorities is rebellion against God. Underneath Paul’s logic is the idea that as Christians behaved peaceably, the governing authorities would have less reason to be suspicious of them or persecute them. Paul wrote from this same frame of mind when he told Titus to remind the church on Crete to be submissive to governing authorities (Titus 3:1-3). In Titus 3, however, Paul’s instruction is based not only on the need for the church to live peaceably so that the gospel message might go forward but also because the gospel message had reached the church. Since God through Christ and the Spirit saved the believers on Crete from their foolish and sinful behavior, the church had no (human) right to rebel against authorities for their foolish and sinful behavior (Titus 3:4-7). Paul argued that the church’s good works would advance the cause of the gospel more than political rebellion (Titus 3:8, 14). Peter wrote that his audience, like Daniel’s, was comprised of exiles (1 Pet 1:1-2). Peter exhorted his readers to fight against the fleshly tendency to rebel against political leaders with whom they disagreed. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles,” Peter wrote, “so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do evil, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in a day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:11-12). Though in Acts 4 when Peter was arrested for preaching in the temple, he rebelled against the Jewish leadership saying that he would obey God rather than them (Acts 4:19), Peter defended himself by calling attention to the good deed he and John performed in helping the lame man to walk (Acts 4:9-10).
(2) Christians should intercede for the salvation of all peoples, including secular authorities. In 1 Tim 2:1-7, Paul instructed Timothy and the church in Ephesus to make intercession for public officials the first order of business. Paul has two goals in mind: that governing authorities would be saved from their sin and brought into God’s kingdom, and that the church would be seen as a peaceable society.