“Then Daniel answered and said before the king, ‘Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.'” (5:17)
I love how uninterested Daniel is in position or wealth. He’s almost hilariously calm, compared to the pale-faced, knee-knocking Belshazzar. I also like how the king, nonetheless, gives Daniel all these gifts. Maybe in a nervous, “oh…okay. Well, thanks here you go.” gesture before “that same night [he] was slain, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom.” (5:30-31)
This is all because Belshazzar knew his father had been humbled by the LORD, and still decided to be proud and worship inanimate objects. (5:18-23)
As one kingdom falls and another takes it place, Daniel seems unphased. He goes from ruling a third of Babylon, to being one of three commissioners over Media; basically ruling a third of this one as well. He obviously doesn’t let it go to his head, and just does a great job. The Spirit of the LORD was within him (6:3). Soon he would be put over all three thirds, but not before the other two guys tried making a power grab.
Darius loves Daniel. You can tell how quickly he grew fond of him, and I wonder at this back story. How, when he overthrew Babylon, did he decide to keep one of Balshazzar’s administrators? Was it because he heard about the writing on the wall and Daniel’s interpretation? Was it Daniel’s basic, overall reputation? In any case, in the time that Daniel served Darius, things had obviously gone well for him. Kings don’t lose sleep over just anybody. This incident provokes a very powerful decree, sent to all peoples, nations and men of every language:
“May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” (6:25b-27)
I want to stop here for a second. Why is Daniel in Media? Israel, Judah, Jerusalem–everyone–had gone sideways. They were defaming their God. They had exchanged Him for idol worship and had become wicked and worthless. They were all in exile for a 70 year time out, so the LORD could give their land all the Sabbaths they’d ignored.
The number one job of Israel, from the beginning, was to be a blessing to every nation. To make God known to the world. That’s why God had put them at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, so people could hear about Him and worship Him.
Now, as a lovely side bonus during their humiliation, the LORD has used his people to spread His fame to the known world. Darius, King of Media, has just done that. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, did it in 3:29; 4:3, 34-35. Ahasuerus, King of Persia, will do it in Esther 10. This is why the exile is my favorite part of Jewish history.
Left on their own, in their own land, the Israelites were keeping the good news of the One True God to themselves and, honestly, ruining His reputation. Their selfish indifference was bad news for the nations.
The Apostle Paul, a Jewish scholar, made another connection like this in the book of Romans 11:10-12, 15.
“By their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
The LORD always keeps a remnant for Himself (Romans 11:5). Even when everything is going wrong, there are always Daniels, Hananiahs, Mishaels, Azariahs, Nehemiahs, Ezras, Mordecais and Esthers. In every dark hour, where it seems the people of God have abandoned the task of blessing others, He always has someone out there, full of His Spirit, doing His work and seeking no personal glory.
Keeping the blessings of God for yourself can turn into a dark thing. What kind of servant of the LORD will you be? How will the fame of the LORD spread in your lifetime?