It is through the Bible that we learn about God and His work for us and through us. In 1 Corinthians 10:11, we read that the stories of the Bible were recorded as examples for us upon whom the ends of the world are come. One is the stories contained in the book of Daniel. God’s grace and salvation are seen throughout the entire book of Daniel. In the prophetic portion of the book, the history of the world is pictured in dreams and symbols, but equally significant for us are the lessons that we can learn from the development of Daniel’s character, himself. We are told that “The case of Daniel may be studied with profit by all who desire perfection of character.” Signs of the Times, November 5, 1896. With this counsel in mind, let us look at the character traits of Daniel.
In the first chapter of Daniel, seven character traits are described as well as four rewards which were granted to Daniel because of his faithfulness. Let’s see what we can learn by studying the character of Daniel in relationship to our preparation for the soon appearing of Christ.
Daniel 1:1–2 tells us of the captivity of the children of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. This was prophesied by God’s prophet in Isaiah 39:3–7. As we research this event in history we learn that over 18,000 people were carried away to Babylon. (See 2 Kings 24:14–16.) Of these 18,000, God was able to chose four as His special messengers to this lost nation of Babylon. Thus the first character trait, seen in Daniel 1:3–7, is that he was chosen. These four young men were chosen because there was something different about their lives and character than the rest of the Israelites. It will be the same with the people of God at the end of the earth. They are a special chosen people who have as their purpose the proclamation of the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14. Just as Daniel chose to follow God, regardless of the cost, so we must make that decision if we will be among the chosen of God.
The second and third character traits can be summarized by the words conviction and commitment. Daniel 1:8 says that “he purposed in his heart the he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.” As a child, Daniel had been raised to know God’s health laws and in this foreign land he had an opportunity to eat and drink as he wanted. So the offer of the King to eat of his meat and wine was a test of Daniel’s personal convictions in the areas of diet, health, and obedience to God’s claims in all areas of his life. Before he took any public stand in regard to his diet, he determined in his own heart that what he had been taught had been truth and he was convicted of his need to remain faithful to God in this area. His next step was to make a public statement of his conviction not to defile himself. What a commitment this was to truth. When Daniel requested that he might not defile himself with the kings diet, the prince of the eunuchs was fearful that the young men would look worse than those who had the privilege of eating the King’s food. He was concerned that allowing the Hebrews to eat and drink according to their custom would make them less fit than the rest of the young men and could thereby endanger his own life.
We might ask ourselves, “Was the matter of diet really important enough to risk their lives?” This is what Ellen White tells us about their decision in regard to diet. “What if Daniel and his companions had made a compromise with those heathen officers and had yielded to the pressure of the occasion by eating and drinking as was customary with the Babylonians? That single instance of departure from principle would have weakened their sense of right and their abhorrence of wrong.” Fundamentals of Education, 81. This makes it extremely clear that our choices in dietary matters can weaken or strengthen our sense of wrong. There is a strong temptation to eat as we desire or to eat according to the customs around us. We do this because it is easier and does not hurt feelings, but the situation of Daniel had much more at stake than hurting feelings. It could have cost him and the prince of the eunuchs their lives. It is therefore clear that we should not conform our dietary decisions or any other of God’s commands to what is customary in the surroundings we find ourselves. Another statement from The Great Controversy makes a similar observation about putting ourselves on common ground with the world. From page 509 we read, “Conformity to worldly customs converts the church to the world, it never converts the world to Christ. Familiarity with sin will inevitably cause it to appear less repulsive. He who chooses to associate with the servants of Satan will soon cease to fear their master. When in the way of duty we are brought into trial, as was Daniel in the Kings court, we may be sure that God will protect us; but if we place ourselves under temptation we shall fall sooner or latter.”
Just as Christ struggled with appetite in the wilderness, so must we. If we are to gain perfection in character, we must overcome in this area of our life. Overcoming appetite is so crucial that Christ fasted for forty days in order to overcome. Through His strength we may be victors not only of appetite, but we may have the moral power to be victorious over every other temptation of Satan. Please note the following, found in Counsels on Diet and Foods, 59: “The controlling power of appetite will prove the ruin of thousands, when, if they had conquered on this point, they would have had moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation of Satan. But those who are slaves to appetite will fail in perfecting Christian character. The continual transgression of man for six thousand years had brought sickness, pain, and death as its fruits. And as we near the close of time, Satan’s temptation to indulge appetite will be more powerful and more difficult to overcome.” Just as Daniel overcame on the point of appetite, so must we, if we are going to stand in these final days as God’s lighthouse to the world.
So, what would become of Daniel’s request to the prince of the eunuchs? Why would the prince of the eunuchs even consider Daniel’s request if it might cost him his life? Part of the reason the prince considered Daniel’s request was because of his fourth character trait, courtesy. Daniel 1:9 tells us that, “God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.” Daniel had indeed gained the respect of the Babylonians, partly because of the courteous and respectful way in which he approached them. He had been taken from his home and was a captive in a strange land, but his courtesy was a daily witness to his captors. In Sanctified Life, 20, 21 we read: “Daniel possessed the grace of genuine meekness. He was true, firm, and noble. He sought to live in peace with all while he was unbending as the lofty cedar whenever principle was involved. In everything that did not come in collision with his allegiance to God, he was respectful and obedient to those who had authority over him, but he had so high a sense of the claims of God that the requirements of earthly rulers were held subordinate. The record of his noble, self denying life is an encouragement to our common humanity. From it we may gather strength to nobly resist temptation and firmly, and in the grace of meekness, stand for the right under the severest trial.”
Daniel’s ability to stand firm based on principle was a result of his fifth character trait, that of confidence in God’s Word. Daniel risked his very life because he had faith in God’s Word. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who have risked everything because of their belief in God’s Word. We may not have been in that position in the past, but each of us may face the same decision Daniel did, some time in the near future. Are we willing to risk all to follow God’s Word? The promise of protection is sure. (See 1 John 4:4, 1 Samuel 2:30, and 2 Peter 1:3–10.)
Because of Daniel’s courtesy and firm stand for principle the head eunuch decided to allow Daniel to have a ten day test of the diet he proposed. (See Daniel 1:10–16.) With confidence in God’s Word, Daniel, for not just the next ten days, but throughout his entire stay in Babylon, displayed his sixth and seventh character traits, courage and consistency. It takes true courage and strength of character, not just a momentary flash of glory, to stand for a lifetime, faithful to our God. Daniel 1:21 says that Daniel “continued.” This kind of courage and consistency, only God can give. Once we take a stand for God, we must, with His help, display consistency in our walk in the truth. Without this our witness will be weak if not even harmful. A quote from Prophets and Kings, 487, 488, brings this home to our heart. It says: “Strong, subtle influences may bind them to the world; but the Lord is able to render futile every agency that works for the defeat of His chosen ones; in His strength they may overcome every temptation, conquer every difficulty. There is need of men who like Daniel will do and dare for the cause of right. Pure hearts, strong hands, fearless courage are needed; for the warfare between vice and virtue calls for ceaseless vigilance.” We must, in our warfare against appetite and every other sin that the Devil brings our way, “stand like Daniel, that faithful statesmen, a man who no temptation could corrupt.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 332.
God never leaves the faithfulness of His children unrewarded. As a result of his obedience, in all areas to God, Daniel experienced rewards that were not shared by the other captives. First, Daniel experienced in his physical being a special impact. He was healthier than those who ate the King’s food. (See Daniel 1:15–16.) His countenance glowed with life and vitality and he had a degree of health that was not experienced by his fellow captives. We too can find health beyond that seen in the world when we follow God’s health laws.
Daniel also experienced an intelligence that was not common among the people around him. (See Daniel 1:17–20.) As we develop our spiritual character and are faithful to follow His requirements for health, God can also bless us with skill in learning. From the Review and Herald, March 22, 1898, this vital link between our spiritual nature and our mental capabilities is emphasized. “As in the case of Daniel, in exact proportion as the spiritual character is developed, the intellectual capabilities are increased.” Daniel 1:17 also states that Daniel had special insight into the meaning of the dreams of the King. He had an understanding and wisdom that only God could give. Finally Daniel was rewarded with a tremendous influence in the country of Babylon. The influence he had in society, and especially with the King, can be seen throughout the rest of the book of Daniel. If these rewards, physical health, intelligence, insight, and influence, were just seen in Daniel, one might say that it was just a coincidence. However, the Bible is full of examples of men and women who, by obeying God, have received similar rewards in their life. One must think of David, Joseph, Queen Esther, Moses, John the Baptist, and Paul. All of these pillars of Bible history were blessed as they obeyed God in their daily lives.
In conclusion, we must, in these closing hours of earth’s history, develop each of these seven character traits if we are going to stand for Jesus during these trying times. God wants us to be His very special chosen people to witness to this world. He wants us to be a people of deep conviction that is based on His word. He wants us to be committed to stand up for our convictions regardless of the circumstances or pressures brought upon us by the world. He wants us to be a courteous people that deal with each other gently and with meekness. He wants us, through study of the Bible and through life’s experiences, to develop firm and unshakable confidence in Him and His Word. Also, He wants us to have courage to privately and publicly stand for principle regardless of the circumstances or costs. Lastly, God wants us to be consistent in our character development and in our Christian walk before Him and the world. The development of these traits is crucial to the perfection of our character and our ability to witness to the power of God.
In Education, 57, we read: “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost soul are true and honest, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” I want to develop this kind of character, one that is pleasing to God and is safe for Jesus to take to heaven, where sin will never again exist. We must have each of these seven traits of character. Just as God helped Daniel develop a lovely character, He will be our helper also. May we each strive, in the struggles of our captivity, in this world of “Babylon,” to be ready for the Lord’s soon return to claim His faithful children as His own. May this be not just a desire, but a reality in each of our lives. Let us pray for this experience for ourselves and all those we love in Christ Jesus.
Janet Headrick is a registered nurse, wife, mother and grandmother. She writes from Rago, Kansas.