Checking in at only 12 chapters, the Book of Daniel is still one the most action-packed and gripping entries in the entire Old Testament. It’s full of fallen kings, fiery furnaces, fierce lions, and floating hands. Standing at the center of the plot is the prophet Daniel, a young man whom God raised up to testify to the truth of His sovereignty over all earthly powers — past, present, and future.
While we don’t get any direct insight into Daniel’s parents, it’s safe to assume that they were faithful, Yahweh-worshipping Israelites who raised their son in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Even more notable is that their training took root and then manifested itself in Daniel’s life after he was taken into captivity to one of the most hostile, anti-God environments of the time: Babylon.
While Christians in America are not in the exact same position as captive Israelites in Babylon, there are still degrees of similarity. Like Babylon of old, the secular regime in America is increasingly hostile to public displays of our faith. Like Babylon of old, there are wicked actors seeking to trap Christians on a technicality in order to silence them.
As Christian parents face these mounting obstacles, we have to ask ourselves: What does it look like to raise future “Daniels” in a modern Babylon? If we look closely at the Book of Daniel, two key virtues jump off the pages: Character and Courage.
The legendary college basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Our character, the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, is revealed when we do what is right, or wrong, because we think we are alone. But we are never truly alone — God is always watching.
Daniel understood this. His godly character was on clear display in Daniel 6 during the well-known episode of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den.”
We read that “Daniel so distinguished himself…that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’”
Imagine that being said about your children — that nothing can be found against them other than their devotion to God. THAT is character.
These evil men, jealous of Daniel’s influence, duped the then-foolish King Darius into signing a law that made it illegal to pray to anyone but Darius for 30 days. Those who broke the law would be sentenced to death, dealt out by the jaws of hungry lions.
What did Daniel do? What he always did — he kept praying to God:
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”–Daniel 6:10
Daniel wasn’t deterred by the petty men seeking his life because he was devoted to God. He refused to compromise. He displayed his true character as a man of God, a man who refused to break the First Commandment, “Thou shall have no other gods before me,” no matter the cost.
Parents, raise your kids to have this kind of unswerving devotion to God. Raise them to always do what’s right — regardless of who is or isn’t watching or what the consequences may be.
Courage is the operating system that principles run on. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe if you refuse to do what’s right when things get hard. Making the right choices in the face of worldly consequences, and even death, takes courage. And Daniel had courage in abundance.
Along with facing down the lions, Daniel also displayed courage in the counsel he provided Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. In Daniel 4:24-27, we see Daniel tell one of the most powerful rulers in the world, a man who held his life in his hands, that he would be driven away from his throne and made to act like an animal:
“This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven…Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
Being the true biblical prophet that he was, Daniel stood before wicked rulers and preached judgment and repentance. This takes courage. And Daniel did this not once but twice. In Daniel 5, he lets Belshazzar know that God is going to judge him and take his life that very night.
The character and courage of Daniel have impacted my own life in such a profound way that we named our third son after him, in the hopes that he would grow to be a man after God’s own heart, just like Daniel.
How can Christian parents raise future Daniels in a modern Babylon? By training them to develop godly character and teaching them to show godly courage, no matter what the cost. And, most importantly, by pointing them to the true and better Daniel, Jesus Christ. We must raise our children to be like Daniel, yes, but we must teach them that they can only do so by trusting in Christ and following in His footsteps. And we must teach them that it doesn’t matter that “the world is watching,” but rather that “God is watching.” That is the starting point for character and courage — and for a future full of more Daniels who can help change our modern-day Babylon back into a nation that honors and submits to God.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.