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An Excellent Spirit

Today our world is crying out for excellence! Too many people are caught in the maddening crowds of mediocrity – trying to squirm through work and life by doing the barest minimum, and if possible, having no commitment, responsibility and accountability. This slothful attitude is also very widespread inside the church – in both the ministers and the Christians.

Our God does all things well. Everything He created was good and perfect. Every detail from the greatest to the least, from the biggest to the smallest, is taken into consideration and completed in excellence. In Psalm 8:1, the psalmist David declared, "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!"

In the Old Testament, the greatest example of a man having an excellent spirit is none other than the prophet Daniel. The Book of Daniel is more than a treasure of prophetic literature. It also paints a beautiful picture of a man of God who lived out his commitment in very troubled times. In three separate verses, the word "excellent" was attributed to him:

Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation. (Daniel 5:12)

I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. (Daniel 5:14)

Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. (Daniel 6:3)

Though Daniel lived in the ancient times, his world was very pagan and hostile towards him and his faith in God. He was taken in captivity to Babylon while he was still a youth. But in the midst of exile and foreign control, he shone brightly in the darkness.

How was Daniel able to excel in the midst of adverse circumstances and hostilities?

Beyond all the wonderful prophecies and insights, he was essentially:

  • A man greatly beloved by God
  • A man who didn’t defile himself
  • A man who had godly friends
  • A man who didn’t compromise
  • A man who allowed God to work through him
  • A man who knew the Word of God
  • A man who prayed
  • A man who lived up to his name
  • A man of integrity
  • A man full of gratitude
  • A man of great patience
  • A man of lasting quality

A Man Greatly Beloved By God

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had besieged Jerusalem, and captured the Jews. He ordered Ashpenaz, his highest palace official, to choose some young men from the royal family of Judah and from other leading Jewish families. The king said, "They must be healthy, handsome, smart, wise, educated, and fit to serve in the royal palace. Teach them how to speak and write our language. Give them the same food and wine that I am served. Train them for three years, and then they can become court officials." Amongst those selected was Daniel, the son of an Israelite nobleman (Daniel 1:1-6).

Daniel was a teenager, about 15 to 17 years old, when he was taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 605 BC. He was in his 80s when he received the vision of the prophecy of the 70 weeks (Daniel 9). In more than 60 years of his life in Babylon, Daniel faced many challenges and crises. But throughout all those years in the pagan world of Babylon, he grew stronger in his devotion and commitment to God.

Daniel was probably from an upper-class family in Jerusalem. It was unlikely that Nebuchadnezzar would select a trainee for his court from the lower classes. It was not known whether Daniel married or had a family. But as a servant in the king’s court, he might be castrated and made into a eunuch. This was a common practice in those days. Whether it was really so, the Bible did not reveal.

Daniel was a man of extraordinary abilities. He was without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was schooled both in the language and literature of the Babylonians (Daniel 1:4).

Besides being a true prophet of God, he also served as a chief advisor in the courts of foreign kings. Daniel remained in governmental service through the reigns of four successive kings - two kings of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:18-21) and his successor Belshazzar (Daniel 5:29), and into the reign of Darius the Mede, and into the reign of Cyrus the Persian (Daniel 6:28), after the Medes and the Persians had defeated the Babylonians.

Daniel was a man of great faithfulness. His book was characterized not only by prophecies of the distant future but also by an exemplary life of daily living in the presence of God and man. From his youth, Daniel was determined to live by the laws of God, even in a foreign and distant land.

He was a man of true devotion to God. In his moments of crisis, he turned first to God in prayer before turning to the problems. His enemies even used his dedication to God and his regular prayer times to trap him and turn the king against him. But the grace of God protected Daniel. In Daniel 9, he prayed a noble prayer of confession for his own sins and the sins of his people.

Because Daniel loved God dearly, God loved him dearly. In three passages in the Scriptures, he was called a man "greatly beloved" by God:

At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision: (Daniel 9:23)

And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." (Daniel 10:11)

And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!" So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me." (Daniel 10:19)

A Man Who Didn’t Defile Himself

In the midst of high society living, Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. Daniel made up his mind to eat and drink only what God had approved for His people to eat. Therefore he asked the king's chief official for permission not to eat the food and wine served in the royal palace.

How could Daniel be defiled by just eating the king's food? There were basically two main reasons:

  • The Babylonian food might not be prepared in accordance to the Jewish dietary laws. They might not be kosher.
  • There was a high probability that the food taken by the king had first been offered to idols.

Many of us would think that God would understand if Daniel compromised and ate the food. After all, he was in captivity, and he didn't really have a choice. But Daniel did have a choice. He made the choice to take a stand for God, no matter what the consequences would be, even if it meant to die. This commitment to God was evident throughout all his years in Babylon.

In Daniel 1:12, he asked the guard in charge to test him and his friends for ten days by giving them nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. At the end of the ten days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food (Daniel 1:15). God’s favor was greatly bestowed upon them.

A Man Who Had Godly Friends

Daniel had some godly friends who shared the same commitment and dedication to God. Three of them were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Like Daniel, they too made the same decision not to defile themselves with the royal food. God granted them favor with those were directly above them. All the four of them served God while working in the palaces of Babylon.

Daniel's three friends were put to another test before God and the king. They refused to worship the pagan Babylonian gods, and to bow down to the 90-feet gold statue built by King Nebuchadnezzar. When brought before the king for questioning, they were unshaken, bold and courageous. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego said to the king (Daniel 3:16-18):

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."

They did not compromise. The furious king commanded the furnace to be heated seven times more than it was usually heated (Daniel 3:19). All three of them were then cast into the fiery furnace. But God was with them in the fire. They emerged unharmed because of God's miraculous protection. This test of blazing fire again proved to the pagan king that the God of Israel was more superior and mightier than the gods of Babylon.

In Daniel 3:28-29, King Nebuchadnezzar himself declared:

"Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God Who can deliver like this."

After his public declaration, the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego to even higher positions so that they prospered greatly there in the province of Babylon (Daniel 3:30).

Daniel’s life was greatly influenced and impacted by his three friends. As they gathered together for fellowship, communion, prayer and praise, they encouraged and edified one another in the Lord. They lived out their statements of faith in community living against worldly prejudices and persecutions.

They maintained their relationships with God, and with one another. They were not afraid to take a stand for the Lord. They were not afraid of losing their jobs or even their own lives. In doing so, they received favor from God and from those whom they served. They sharpened one another in the faith. Their cutting edge of excellence in spirit and in service was evident to all men throughout the passage of time.

A Man Who Didn't Compromise

In Daniel 6, Daniel was serving King Darius the Mede, who had conquered the Babylonians. Darius divided his kingdom into 120 provinces, each under a governor. The governors were accountable to three presidents. Daniel was one of the three. He soon proved himself to be more capable than the other two presidents. As a result, the king began to think of placing Daniel over the entire empire, second only to himself.

This made the other presidents and governors very jealous and furious. They began searching for some faults in the way Daniel was handling his affairs so that they could complain to the king about him. But they couldn't find any wrongdoing in Daniel to criticize or expose him before the king! Daniel was faithful and honest. He made no mistakes. Thus, they concluded, "Our only chance is his faith!" The only way to come against the man of God was to make him break the law of man in order to obey the law of God!

The presidents and governors came before the king with a plan that would feed the ego of the king. They said to King Darius (Daniel 6:6-8):

"King Darius, live forever! We presidents, governors, counselors, and deputies have unanimously decided that you should make a law, irrevocable under any circumstance, that for the next thirty days anyone who asks a favor of God or man-- except from you, Your Majesty-- shall be thrown to the lions. Your Majesty, we request your signature on this law; sign it so that it cannot be canceled or changed; it will be a 'law of the Medes and Persians' that cannot be revoked."

King Darius was delighted at the suggestion, and he signed the law. When Daniel knew about it, he went home. He knelt down as usual in his bedroom upstairs, with its windows open towards Jerusalem, and prayed three times a day. He offered prayers as usual, giving thanks to God.

The evil men thronged Daniel's house. They found him praying there - asking favors of his God. With solid evidence in their hands, they rushed back to the king and informed him about Daniel breaking the new law. The king was trapped by their evil scheme.

King Darius was very angry with himself for signing the new law. He was determined to save Daniel, and spent the rest of the day trying to find some ways to get Daniel out of this predicament. In the evening, the conspirators came again to the king and said, "Your Majesty, there is nothing you can do. You signed the law, and it cannot be changed." The king had no choice but to give in and order for the arrest of Daniel.

Daniel was taken to the den of lions. The king said to him, "May your God, Whom you worship continually, deliver you." Upon those departing words, Daniel was thrown into the den. A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed it with his own signet ring and with that of his government, so that no one could rescue Daniel from the lions. Then the king returned to his palace, and went to bed without dinner. He refused to be entertained, and he didn't sleep all night.

Very early the next morning, he hurried out to the lions' den and called out in anguish, "O Daniel, servant of the Living God, was your God, Whom you worship continually, able to deliver you from the lions?"

Then he heard the voice of Daniel! "Your Majesty, live forever! My God has sent His angel to shut the lions' mouths so that they can't touch me. I am innocent before God!"

The king was overjoyed! He ordered Daniel to be lifted up from the den. Not a scratch was found on him. God had protected His greatly beloved! The king then issued a command to bring the men who had accused Daniel. They were then thrown into the den of lions along with their children and wives. The lions leaped upon them, and tore them apart before they even hit the bottom of the den.

Afterward King Darius wrote this message addressed to everyone in his empire: "Greetings! I decree that everyone shall tremble and fear before the God of Daniel in every part of my kingdom. For his God is the living, unchanging God Whose kingdom shall never be destroyed and Whose power shall never end. He delivers His people, preserving them from harm; He does great miracles in heaven and earth; it is He Who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions."

Daniel was an excellent employee! His relationship with his bosses is something we must learn and follow. King Darius was worried when the life of Daniel was endangered. He could not afford to lose such an excellent employee like Daniel. He loved Daniel. He could not eat or sleep when Daniel was in the den of lions. He ran to the den early in the morning to check out for himself whether Daniel was still alive. He could have sent his guards to find out the state of Daniel but his heart did not allow him to do so. He had to personally make the journey. He was greatly rejoicing to know that his beloved employee was still alive! He also killed those who schemed against Daniel.

Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius. He didn't compromise even at the cost of his life. He knew the principle stated in Matthew 10:39: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."

A Man Who Allowed God To Work Through Him

Daniel’s qualification for prophetic ministry was his delight in the Lord. He was willing to spend quality time with Him in times of prayers and worship. He was available for His Master’s use. Even though he was a high-ranking government official with loads of heavy responsibilities and busy schedules, his heart was always tuned to God. He was able to hear His voice in the midst of many other noises!

He didn't allow his position, work or pride to get in the way of becoming an effective instrument of God. He recognized and acknowledged the Lordship of his God. He ministered first to Him before ministering to others! He had direct access to the King of kings, and the LORD of lords. When God gave him a word, Daniel would declare it faithfully.

When Daniel was summoned before King Nebuchadnezzar to interpret a dream, he answered in the presence of the king, and said (Daniel 2:27-30):

"The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven Who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: "As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He Who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.""

It was not because Daniel was more intelligent than others that God chose him. It was because he was humble before God and man. He knew that God was using him to reveal the pride in the heart of the king that would eventually cause his downfall!

When King Nebuchadnezzar heard the interpretation, he was awed by its message and its accuracy! He fell on his face, and prostrated before Daniel. He commanded that they should present an offering and incense to Daniel. The king answered Daniel, and said, "Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret."

The king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts. He made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and the chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel appealed to the king to set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon (Daniel 2:46-49).

Daniel allowed God to work in him, and through him to be a blessing to those around him, primarily his bosses and his friends.

A Man Who Knew The Word Of God

During their exile in Babylon, many Jews were caught and entrapped in slavery. Their eyes were upon their own pains and sorrows. By the rivers of Babylon, there they sat down, and wept when they remembered Zion (Psalm 137). They had hung their harps upon the willows, and could not sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land.

But Daniel was different. He had an excellent spirit. He wrote this in Daniel 11:32: "the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." While others were sighing away, he was actively seeking the Word of God to find out what God’s plans were.

In the first year of the reign of Darius, Daniel was reading the Book of Jeremiah. As he studied, he understood that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. Immediately, he set his face towards God to make request by prayers and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes (Daniel 9:1-6).

Daniel was both a hearer and doer of His Word! He had a desire to know God and His will. When searching the Holy Scriptures, he found Jeremiah 25:11. Therein Jeremiah had prophesied the captivity of Judah to Babylon, and that it would last for 70 years. As he read, God breathed life into those Scriptures. Daniel received the Rhema Word. Without any hesitation, he came to God in repentance, confessing before Him first his own sins, and then the sins of his people.

The knowledge of God's Word enabled Daniel to be in a position where he could accomplish His perfect will. Daniel was excellent in the Word of God. He loved His laws and precepts. He delighted in the Law of the LORD! And he lived according to the Word of the LORD! Nothing short of His glory!

A Man Who Prayed

Daniel was excellent in his prayers. Oftentimes, he would seek the face of God alone. This is one of the trademarks of a true prophet. Prophets are the mouthpieces of God. They were all intercessors and prayer warriors! God often revealed secrets to His servants the prophets during times of intimacy and intercession (Amos 3:7).

When Daniel knew the Word of God, he did not publish the hard facts and punish his people for their sins. He took upon himself to intercede for them. His prayers were powerful as they touched the very heart of God! Daniel prayed that the Word of God would be accomplished and be fulfilled.

Praying according to His Word is praying according to His Will! The Word of God is living and powerful. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow. It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Praying is business as usual for Daniel everyday and everywhere!

A Man Who Lived Up To His Name

The name of Daniel means "God is my judge" or "judge of God."

Our God is both loving and just. He is the Judge Who judges righteously (Psalm 98:9). He punishes the ungodly, and rewards the godly. As in any court case, the victims are compensated, and the offenders are prosecuted.

Daniel willingly submitted himself to God's judgment as God judges all mankind, both the good and the bad (Revelation 11:18). God promises to sternly judge those who cruelly oppress His people (Revelation 6:9-11).

Daniel saw the judgment of God upon his own people when they sinned against God. It was God Who brought them into captivity by the Babylonians. He also saw the judgment of God upon the Babylonians as they oppressed the people of God!

In His judgment, God always remembers His mercy. In Psalm 25:7, the psalmist pleaded, "Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness' sake, O LORD."

Who is a God like You,
pardoning iniquity and passing over
the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,
because He delights in mercy. (Micah 7:18)

Daniel could have become very judgmental but he did not. In fact, he had a very sweet spirit. All his employers and friends loved and delighted to have him. Because God is his Judge, he judged himself so that he would not be judged (1 Corinthians 11:31).

He walked worthy before God, living up to his name and bringing honor to the name of his God!

A Man Of Integrity

Looking at the various dreams and visions that Daniel interpreted for the different kings, there was one common feature that stood out prominently. In each of them, the messages and interpretations that Daniel received from God were not something that the kings would love to hear. He did not tickle their ears or boost their egos. Daniel simply told them the truth! He was faithful in proclaiming the very words that God had spoken to him.

Daniel was very careful in not taking the name of the LORD in vain. Unless the LORD spoke, he would not dare to be presumptuous to say something that was not! He also did not use his prophetic insights and giftings to lord over others and to control them. He knew Who his God was! He was watching over him night and day. Nothing could hide from His eyes!

It was this level of honesty and integrity that set Daniel apart from the rest. All the four kings were impressed by Daniel. They could always count on Daniel to tell them the truth, and to do the right thing. They knew that Daniel would not garner their favors by telling lies.

A Man Full Of Gratitude

Daniel always gave God the glory! There were many instances in his employment under various kings where Daniel interpreted the dreams and visions, and even some handwritings on the wall. In each of them, Daniel would testify publicly and give glory to God, acknowledging that it was God Who gave the interpretations.

Daniel didn't try to steal the limelight for himself. He used every opportunity of his life to glorify God, and to make Him known to others!

Because Daniel was faithful in little things, God entrusted him with greater things. God opened up the future and revealed to Daniel many prophetic visions pertaining to what were to come. God even sent one of His archangels, Gabriel, to deliver the answer to a vision given to Daniel (Daniel 8:1, 16). Daniel was faithful, and he recorded every one of the prophecies so that we are able to read and know them today! To God be the glory!

A Man Of Great Patience

Daniel was patient with God and man. In Daniel 10, a message was revealed to Daniel. The message was true, but the appointed time was long. Daniel understood the message, and had understanding of the vision. He went into mourning for three full weeks. He tasted neither wine nor meat. He did not wash or shave or comb his hair.

Finally, at the end of the 21 days, an angel came from heaven with an answer for him. It was not because God was testing his patience by taking such a long time to give him an answer. It was because the angel had to battle his way down to earth. The angel said to Daniel:

"Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come." (Daniel 10:12-14)

Daniel did not give up while waiting on God. He persevered and fought a good fight of faith even in very trying and testing times! His heart was strengthened as he waited on the LORD.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! (Psalm 27:13-14)

He knew Whom He had believed and was persuaded that He was able to keep what he had committed to Him until that Day of His return (2 Timothy 1:12). He was steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. He knew that his labor was not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

A Man Of Lasting Quality

Daniel served in high positions of the pagan government for more than 60 years of his life. This was an incredible accomplishment for a Jew! In the ancient times, a new king would kill all the advisors of the previous king so that there would not be any possible upheavals or revolts. In spite of that, Daniel was chosen to serve four successive kings.

The Bible even recorded that at least three of these four kings promoted Daniel to one of the highest positions of authority and trust. Why? Simply because Daniel had excellence and lasting quality. As Daniel grew older, he did not become useless and ineffective. He maintained his cutting edge by renewing his mind in the Spirit, and not conforming himself to the worldly standards. His thoughts and ideas were not obsolete and outdated. He remained faithful to God and man. There was no error or fault found in him.

When his bosses wanted something done, they could count on Daniel to deliver the goods. Daniel did all things with excellence. Not a trace of sloppiness could be found in any of his works. He had lasting quality!

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Written on:
1 October 2004