Some time ago, my wife and I took our granddaughter Macy to a museum where guests pan for gold in a stream. Plunging her arms into the water, she carefully shook the sand around in the pan, seeking the shiny gold specks. With a sense of triumph, she placed her small treasure in a glass vial to take home.
Macy’s discovery echoes these words: “The study of the Bible demands our most diligent effort and persevering thought. As the miner digs for the golden treasure in the earth, so earnestly, persistently, must we seek for the treasure of God’s word” (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 189). Guided by the Holy Spirit, new facets of God’s love and character reveal themselves. What about familiar portions of Scripture like the book of Daniel? Has this mine — with its treasure — been thoroughly dug out?
I’ve reopened Daniel with a simple question: What does God say to me today from this ancient text? I’m assured that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NKJV). So, what might I find?
Consider with me Daniel 2 and the praise hymn that is the theme of the entire book. Adventists know the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation. The four kingdoms ending in the stone kingdom are solid bedrock to Seventh-day Adventist prophetic proclamation. Yet I find it is the prayer experience of Daniel and his friends — often overlooked in our studies — that holds new lessons for me to be more “thoroughly equipped for every good work” in 2022.
Before Daniel explained the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, “Daniel blessed the God of heaven” and prayed, “Blessed by the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And 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. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.
“I thank you and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand” (Daniel 2:19-23, NKJV).
While the dream image carries the timeline of history, this praise hymn reveals treasure for those of us who live during the in-between time. Consider these five spiritual lessons Daniel supplies for our faith journey.
Every problem is a call to prayer. As Daniel and his fellow exiles faced death, his first action, after asking for some additional time, was to gather his friends for prayer. When faced with difficulties large and small, we too often resort to complaining, gossip, and worry rather than coming to the One who can answer our needs. Imagine the transformation in life, family, and church if the very first reaction to problems became, “It’s time to pray.” There is no need to wait for the “big problems,” for our Lord desires us to seek Him throughout the day. Paul reminds us that there is a remedy for the troubled spirit: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, NKJV).
When God answers, be thankful. When God answers our prayers, we often quickly move on to the next thing. Daniel remembered that the circle of answered prayer is not closed until we earnestly return to the throne of grace and declare, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever.… I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers” (Daniel 2:20, 23, NKJV). A friend recently reminded me, “If you don’t learn the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness.”
God is sovereign in human affairs. The dysfunction and sinfulness of society can drive us to despair. Daniel’s prayer declares of God, “He changes the times and the seasons” (v. 21). This theme saturates every chapter before and after. Kings, presidents, dictators, and despots have their limited time and will one day blow away like chaff in the wind. The evil that men do today will not negate the divine plan that redeems humanity from ruin and brings the stone kingdom to fill the earth at last. What a reassurance it is that the same Lord, bending history to His glorious end, also directs our lives for the season we are given on this planet. Ask for His guidance and then place your trust in Him.
We have truth to share. The prayer of Daniel echoes through the ages to us today: “He reveals the deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness; and light dwells with Him” (v. 22). There is truth, and it is available for all who seek it from the true Source. “But you are a chosen generation … His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV). What a privilege and responsibility we have. We must always carry out this work with the humility of receiving a free gift that is worth sharing with everyone.
God’s kingdom fills the earth. The zenith of human existence will not evolve from a political system, economic theory, or technological advancement. The ever-decreasing worth of earthly kingdoms expressed in the image of Daniel 2 will be usurped by the never-to-end kingdom. It will be here on this earth (with a brief 1,000-year stopover in heaven).
No wonder Daniel exalted God in this hymn of praise. His prayer is golden treasure that shines forth from the heavenly mine of truth. There is so much more that awaits our discovery. All of it shall serve us well as we await the stone kingdom of righteousness soon to come.
The original version of this commentary was posted in the November 2022 issue of the Pacific Union Recorder. Bradford C. Newton is the president of the Pacific Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, based in Westlake Village, California, United States.