17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,
18 that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
The world is full of mysteries, some of which we may come to understand and others which we will not fathom in this lifetime. There are times when we wish we knew the right thing to say or do to help ourselves or others. Sometimes, God allows us to see solutions to those thorny problems, but sometimes not. And there are times when the best we can do is fast and pray and throw ourselves on God’s mercy, having faith that all things really DO work together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
King Nebuchadnezzar was in a tizzy. He had been having this same dream over and over, and no one had been able to interpret it for him. The finest magicians and astrologers were at a loss, and the king finally lost his temper and ordered all the wise men killled – including four young Jewish slaves named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. (Daniel’s companions are often better known by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. See Daniel 1:7) These four fellows already had a reputation for being far wiser and more discerning than all the astrologers and magicians in Babylon. (Daniel 1:20) But now the king was angry at all so-called “wise men,” and he was indiscriminately taking his anger out on them all. The king’s captain even sought out Daniel and his friends to kill them. Rather than run and hide, Daniel sought an audience with King Nebuchadnezzar and asked for a little time to give the king an interpretation of his dream. Then Daniel returned to his friends.
When I was reading this passage last night, I was really struck by what Daniel and his companions asked for. Daniel did not directly seek the interpretation of the dream, nor did he and his friends ask God for a quick route out of Babylon. They left it up to God by simply seeking His “mercies.” In the book of Daniel, many of the words used are actually Chaldean derivatives of Hebrew words, and this word “mercies” corresponds to the Hebrew “racham,” which means “compassions” or, as it is often translated, “tender mercies.” I imagine Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah probably prayed something like David did:
16 Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good;
Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.
17 And do not hide Your face from Your servant,
For I am in trouble;
Hear me speedily.
18 Draw near to my soul, and redeem it;
Deliver me because of my enemies.
They left it up to God Himself to determine what to do, rather than asking for something specific. Why would they do that? Because Daniel, “with counsel and wisdom,” understood that God knows far better that we do what we need to do to be saved.
I remember one particular prayer I prayed one night when I was struggling with something that threatened to drag me into darkness. For months I had been praying specific prayers and targeting what I thought was the problem. I had gradually started to lose hope, and I began to give in to the idea that this problem was going to be a thorn in my side all my life. Then one night, weeping and broken, I knelt by my bed and said a simple prayer asking for God’s mercy. In the back of my mind I remembered this verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Like Daniel, I knew that God would have mercy upon me and show me His lovingkindness in whatever way He saw fit. The very next day, I met the woman who would become my beloved wife. I was as surprised as anyone, but I didn’t question His “tender mercies.”
Daniel was in a position to glorify God, and so rather than run away, he stayed and sought the path that would display God’s lovingkindness. He didn’t pray for a way to get away, and he didn’t pray that the king would pass away and his death sentence be repealed. Daniel and his friends didn’t specifically ask for wisdom or riches. They didn’t “name it and claim it.” Quite the contrary, they simply knelt down before the Lord and sought His mercies, and they left it up to God to lead them in a way that would glorify Him, that would show to the world His compassion.
22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
God’s compassions (Hebrew “racham”) do not fail, they are new every morning. Sure enough, the secret of the king’s dream was delivered to Daniel in a “night vision,” so that the next morning Daniel was able to contact the king’s captain and avert the further destruction of the wise men. Daniel went on to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and the end result was that God was glorified and Daniel and his friends promoted to great status in the kingdom. (Daniel 2:46-49)
I often mention to people that the question we need to ask ourselves in our everyday lives is “What would glorify God?” Jesus sought only to glorify God, and He was obedient to whatever His Father wanted, even to the Cross. In our darkest hours, we need to be like Daniel, asking God to reveal His mercies to us in whatever fashion He sees fit, knowing that our Father in heaven will be glorified in whatever happens. We also need to be like our Savior, Christ Jesus, and know that sometimes God will not take away the cup of suffering. It takes a great deal of faith to so utterly depend upon our Lord, but it is just that sort of faith that shows our love and obedience.
I have some friends and family who are going through some very tough times, as are many who are affected by today’s economic crisis. We all have felt or will feel like someone is coming to take away all we have, or perhaps we are truly facing imminent death because of illness or accident or persecution. In any case, we must turn to the Lord our God and seek His mercies, leaving the details up to Him. That is not to say we shouldn’t ask for specific blessings, but that we should always ask for things that will glorify only Him in our lives.
Today, as we face whatever trials that await us, may we seek His wisdom and His will. May we be so wise as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and ask God to work out the details and give us whatever solution He sees fit to give. Whether it is a financial crisis, the imminent death of a loved one, a den of lions or a fiery furnace, let us depend upon the Lord our God to bring us through, to protect us and give us discernment and faith. Let us so throw ourselves upon God’s mercy, believing that He will be glorified through whatever happens. And in the end, may we never forget to bless the God of heaven for the mercies He shows us every morning.
Lord God in heaven, we seek Your mercies today. We know that You will be glorified, that if we step out in faith You will do wondrous things. Give us that faith, Father, and teach us to depend upon Your lovingkindness, Your grace, Your unending compassion. Lead us in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Amen.