Our reading for today introduces us to a larger than life figure in Israel’s history. Daniel’s story reads in so many ways like that of Joseph, who centuries earlier had played a leading role in his people’s future. Like Joseph, Daniel finds that his gift for interpreting dreams elevates him into a position of power and authority within a foreign ruler’s government. Like Joseph, Daniel acts with both wisdom and courage. Perhaps the most striking feature of Daniel’s character, however, is his unwavering commitment to honor God. Against the backdrop of Israel’s faithlessness highlighted in so many of our readings in recent weeks, his example stands out in sharp contrast.
In the person of Daniel, the people of Israel get just the role model they need. Imagine mothers and fathers in the generations after Daniel, telling their children how their ancestor would not bow down to the powerful king of Babylon. Imagine the children’s eyes growing wide as they listen to the story of Daniel being thrown to the lions. Imagine the confidence and bold faith inspired as the story comes to an end and Daniel steps out of the den unharmed. The one, true God has kept him safe in the face of great danger. No wonder he became such a favorite figure in Israel’s storytelling. . .and why he is still such a great example for us today, kids and adults alike.