The book of Daniel is a short book with a wide scope. Usually people focus on all the visions and prophecies in the book. I want to focus on Daniel’s spirituality, and how it allowed him to become chief over the magicians in a culture such as babylon.
Daniel’s spirituality is summed up in the phrase, “he set his heart to gain understanding.” Daniel wanted to understand the nature of Reality, and how the heavenly realms interface with the earthly–specifically in the area of leadership.
He not only studied all the wise books of his host culture, but he studied the other prophets and figured out many dates and times from them. He decoded the book of Jeremiah to understand exactly when his own people would be allowed to return.
Daniel also could interpret the symbolic realm. He was known to have a gift in dream interpretation. This was a common practice among the wise men of that culture, but Daniel’s God actually revealed to him what another person had dreamed, and its interpretation.
Here is the first time in scriptures that “kingdom of God” is mentioned. Daniel understood the realms of kingdoms and their interaction. He was one who could see how the spiritual Kingdom of God related and intervened in the kingdoms of earth. He sought repeatedly to see the exact ways in which these realms interacted. He did this at the same time as counseling world leaders, and being one himself! This is no impractical mystic who is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. This is a man who saved lives, and made a way for his people to return from exile. Here is a great leader on earth, who spent much time finding out how heaven ruled, and its dynamics with civil governments. Here is a mystic king!
This is also a man who understood the kingdom of God!
Remember also, he rescued the lives of most of the wise men of babylon, by telling the king his dream and interpreting it. The king had already begun killing the other wise men for not being able to tell him what he had dreamed. Daniel stopped this slaughter and God revealed to him the kings dream and its meaning. This was what first got him promoted! Pretty cool trick! Also that level of faith.
Let them prophesy according to their faith. That level is something else!
His cross-culturalness was contextualized by his spirituality. He was very Jewish, but also able to have compassion for and save the lives of babylonians. He actually saved the lives of many of their “wise” men. These men, whose books he also read and studied in his three years of training, were the sorcerers and magicians. It strikes me that God did not abandon them either. He actually used Daniel as a Kingdom agent to contextualize their strange musings. I think many of these men actually tasted the Kingdom of God because of Daniel.
This reminds me of St Patrick’s approach to the Druids in Ireland. He did not just dismiss them as people, but showed how the Kingdom of God engulfed and corrected their lower storied visions! And many came into the true Kingdom and came to know God’s Mysteries. I also think of Jesus’ calling of Nathanael. He tells him who he is, and where he was physically, just moments before! I think Nathanael was something of a mystic, for we can see the identity of each disciple by how Jesus called them. In the case of Nathanael Jesus told him he had seen him before they met, under a particular fig tree! This blew Nathanael’s mind, and he immediately followed The Lord. Jesus the seer!
Daniel was more than just a great leader and prophet. These things came from his basic orientation before God–his spirituality. He set his mind and heart to gain the understanding and knowledge of the Kingdom of God, and was given great scope of vision into the patterns of God’s work between heaven and earth as a result. He was also a good earthly ruler because of it. Not just a irrelevant mystic floating in the spheres. But a day to day leader on earth with the vision and wisdom of heaven, able to make his decisions in a the fullest context that vision would allow of history!