The Prophet Daniel recorded many significant prophecies in the Book of Daniel. We may think of the interpretation of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, as well as various visions given to Daniel. The events surrounding the first vision recorded in Daniel 2 are noteworthy. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream during the second year of his reign, which troubled him greatly. The king not only wanted an interpretation of his dream but also demanded that the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and the Chaldeans tell him his dream (Daniel 2:2). This request was impossible, humanly, and the Chaldeans quickly and correctly reminded the king that “there is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter” (Daniel 2:10). However, the wise men were in trouble because the king was adamant in his request and so furious at their inability to meet his demands that he issued a decree to “destroy all the wise men of Babylon.” This decree included Daniel and his three companions (Daniel 2:12-14).
The king’s command to kill the wise men of Babylon was already being carried out when Daniel “with wisdom and counsel” went to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, to ask why the king was so urgent and Arioch made the king’s decision known (Daniel 2:14-15). Daniel acted decisively and went in to the king and asked the king to give him time so he could tell the interpretation.
The next step is important. Daniel and his three companions knew their wisdom as humans was inadequate alone to tell the king his dream or the interpretation, and they immediately sought “mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret,” so that they might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:18). God responded and revealed the secret to Daniel in a night vision.
In verse 19, “Daniel blessed the God of heaven” and answered in a prayer of appreciation and thanksgiving in verses 20-23.
Giving Wisdom to the Wise
In the prayer, Daniel makes an interesting statement in the last part of verse 21 that this article will explore.
“He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. (Emphasis added.)
This italicized portion of verse 21 applies as much to God’s people today as it did in Daniel’s day, and we can be encouraged by it as much as Daniel was.
What this passage clearly implies is there is a connection between the wisdom Daniel and his friends already possessed, as devout men, and the wisdom God added to them above what they were capable of as physical human beings. Because of their faith and confidence in God, they received wisdom and understanding to answer the king. This was in addition to their own wisdom and understanding.
Daniel and His Friends Possessed A Solid Foundation
Daniel and his three friends were already very accomplished young men by this time, who had been identified as having the ability to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. They were selected to receive three years of training to be prepared to serve before the king. In Daniel 1:17 it mentions that “God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom,” but Daniel and his friends also applied themselves and did their part. So, this was a partnership, so to speak.
When Nebuchadnezzar interviewed and examined them in Daniel 1:19-20, he found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and “In all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:20). This is the foundation of wisdom and understanding that Daniel referred to in his prayer in Daniel 2:21.
Daniel and his friends made the most of the opportunities provided to them in Babylon to build upon the knowledge and wisdom they had already developed as devout and faithful servants of God. Their preparation and diligence were noted by Nebuchadnezzar, and it provided opportunities to serve at a high level in the Babylonian administration.
The Babylonian Environment
Living and prospering as Jews in a gentile environment in Babylon is not materially different from what we face today. We live in a society that functions in much the same way by rewarding human wisdom, without much regard for the wisdom of God. Following Daniel’s example, however, we can develop skills to succeed in our responsibilities in this life while at the same time grow in godly wisdom through our calling and respect for God’s word. We can and should do both.
Doing so prepares us for what lies ahead and gives us boldness to face the trials and tests we will face as God’s people. If we do our part, we will take advantage of opportunities to grow in skill, wisdom, and knowledge. We can be confident God will add wisdom above what we already possess so we can deal with tough situations. But the choice is ours to make.
Our lives may not be at risk as was the case with Daniel and his friends, but our livelihoods might be. We may also have to confront situations where a wise decision will have a significant impact on our future, like choosing a future spouse, making education, and career choices, for example. Poor decisions we make on our own, or the failure to make wise decisions out of fear of failure, will have long-term impacts that are difficult to reverse or mitigate. One quote I heard says it well, “Failure is never quite so frightening as regret.”
What Should We Do?
Following are a few observations for the reader’s consideration from what has been discussed.
- Work diligently daily to acquire the wisdom of God and never take a vacation from that responsibility. It is natural to rely on our human nature and our own cognitive abilities to function in this world, but that does not produce the wisdom of God, which is spiritually perceived and acquired.
- Take advantage of every opportunity to prepare ourselves for the future. If we do, God will respect our attitude and efforts and will provide the wisdom and knowledge we need to navigate the hard choices and decisions we face in this life.
- Recognize when situations are beyond our abilities to address humanly. When these times arise, seek wise counsel, and make our needs known to God so that He may add to our own understanding.
Let’s follow the example of Daniel and his friends by developing the skills to succeed in life, make sound decisions, and grow in the wisdom of God. We can then be confident that in difficult situations, God will “give wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”
By Bill Welch