The record of Daniel is one biblical portrait that parents can use to teach children about trustworthiness. This “picture worth a thousand words” paints vivid colors of trustworthiness over the dark shadows of adversity. Starting in chapter 1, it is primarily Daniel’s testimony to the faithfulness of God Most High amidst tragedy. If your child experienced hardships in life, perhaps you can help him imagine how Daniel might have felt so that he can see ways that he can identify with this mistreated but godly young man and then emulate his right responses.
From 2 Kings, we know that turmoil haunted Daniel’s early childhood. Repeatedly, people in his country and city were slain by invading armies. Daniel probably lived in or near the palace, and he was old enough to be aware when Pharaoh attacked, overpowered, and carried his king away to Egypt. It must have been a time of fear.
Daniel chapter 1 relates the time when another nation, the Babylonians, besieged his city. There would have been more suffering. Daniel was probably about fifteen by that time. At the end of it, the Babylonians traumatically tore him (and some other boys) from his family, his home, his country, and his culture. He was forcibly exiled far away in Babylon among strangers who spoke a foreign language. There was no authority that he could trust. There, his captors attempted to brainwash him. They commanded him to eat foods that God had forbidden to the Hebrews. Daniel was a Hebrew. Refusal would probably mean death.
What didn’t Daniel do? He didn’t wrap the commander in a super-sweet hug to charm his favor. He didn’t resort to sneaking or hoarding acceptable foods. He didn’t resort to arguing or pouting. In other words, he didn’t try to gain control to save his own life.
What did Daniel do? Leaving the outcome in God’s hands, Daniel “made up his mind” to be faithful to the Lord while speaking respectfully to seemingly unreasonable authorities. God honored his faithfulness by granting him favor. Eventually, Daniel was promoted to be one of the king’s top counselors.
What does Daniel’s response show that he believed? He believed that God is trustworthy and he loved Him. He believed that there is something more important than self-preservation–God’s glory. There is something worse than death–sin.
Later chapters relate that enemies still tried to destroy Daniel. Nevertheless, he faithfully prayed to God, faithfully did his assigned work, faithfully told the truth even when he suffered for it. All the while, he trusted God (not men and not himself) to protect him. He trusted God even when it did not appear that he was being protected, even when he suffered for his trust.
While Daniel provides a wise example to follow, the main point of the passage and the whole book is the character of God Most High. God is holy; we must not sin. God is good; He will care for His own even when they are helpless. God is wise; He has a purpose for life’s tragedies. God is powerful; He can protect His own from armies, death, enemies, impossible situations, and controlling authorities. He can even shut the mouths of starving lions. God is faithful; He will bless those who trust and obey Him. God is relational; He enjoys our talking to Him. (A controlling child needs to know, too, that God is not emotionally weak. Although He desires our companionship, He will not compromise to gain it.)
Through the record of Daniel, we parents can show our children God’s wonderful character and what a joy it is to trustingly obey God Most High.
Possible Discussion Questions:
- Daniel was torn from his family. He trudged against his will for weeks over hundreds of miles to Babylon, an enemy country. He was forced to do what uncaring authorities demanded of him. He had no control and could not keep himself safe. What do you think he might have felt? What sinful thoughts might have tempted him? Worry? Anger? Fear? Resentment?
- We don’t know if Daniel wanted to run, cry, fight, argue, rage, brood, put on a brave face, or all of these at one time or another. If he had, who would he have been trusting to gain safety? Who would he have been loving more, himself or God?
- We do know that he did none of them. What did he do? How did he treat his authorities?
- What kind of attitudes do you see in him?
- When there was no authority whom Daniel could trust, who did he trust?
- Do you think that his beliefs about God made a difference?
- What does his response demonstrate that he believed about God?
- What do you learn about God in Daniel chapter 1?
- What situation in your life is tempting you to worry? Want to run? Be angry? Want to fight? Be sad? Brood?
- What can you tell yourself about God to put off that temptation and put on love for God?
- What kind of attitude will you choose?
- What right response can you make?