Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

August 17th, 2007 • Category: Book of Daniel
by David Squire

Today’s scripture: Daniel 1:18-21 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me in this passage? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (David Squire):

This is one of those passages of scripture where, I believe, we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t read between the lines.

This passage, and the earlier part of chapter one that we’ve already looked at, give us such a condensed view of Daniel’s life that it almost reads like a fairy tale. Especially today’s revelation that,

In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.

And they lived happily ever after. The End.

It’s so easy for me to read a story like this, about one of the great Bible heroes, and then get down on myself because my life is a mess compared to his. Daniel resolved to follow God (verse eight) and twelve verses later, he’s wise and handsome and respected in his cushy palace job.

But it doesn’t take much speculation to imagine the awful stuff Daniel had to go through. So far we’ve seen that his country was overthrown in war and the temple was ransacked. He’s been kidnapped, forced into service of this enemy king, and likely castrated. Not quite as rosy as the Reader’s Digest version seems at first glance. I can imagine that Daniel was filled with the same anger, sadness, rage, despair, and depression that any of us are when life runs over us with a bus.

So why does the writer of Daniel leave out all of the stuff I can relate to? Just as any editor has to cut out some good material if it doesn’t serve the narrative (one writing teacher I had called it “murdering your darlings”), this is left out because it’s not the point. The author tells us what’s important:

  1. Daniel resolved to follow God.
  2. God was then able to use Daniel in powerful ways.

So what about us? If I take the Reader’s Digest view of my life, what does it look like? Do I believe that God is leading and will use me? Does all my drama and heartache shrink away, like minor detours in the grand scheme?

Thought for the day: Today I’ll try to see the big picture. I’ll trust that if I’ve decided to follow, God will be faithful to lead — no matter what “detours” life brings.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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