Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When You Need Courage (Daniel 1)

Dannah Gresh: Do you need a reminder of the bigger picture? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth offers some perspective.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God sees, God knows; He is at work. When you need to make some decisions and you need to make some hard choices, God is going to give you the gifts, the wisdom you need and that you will need in those moments.

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, coauthor of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, for September 29, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

If you’ve ever faced a tough ethical decision, you know how difficult it can be. Today, Nancy will take us to God’s Word to see where Daniel and his friends found courage. First, we’re almost through our month of celebration. It was September of 2001 when Revive Our Hearts launched as a radio program. Many listeners have called to say happy birthday, both to Revive Our Hearts and to Nancy, because her birthday is the same day. Listeners like Karen from Texas.

Karen: Nancy, it's my joy to wish you happy birthday on this recorded line and my wish for you is from Psalm 20:4. It says, "May the Lord gave you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose." And I also want to say congratulations to Revive Our Hearts. From the very first encounter with Nancy and the message of fullness and freedom and fruitfulness in Christ, till now there is rarely a day that I don't receive encouragement and conviction sometimes and hope from Revive Our Hearts—from a podcast or a book or a memory of one of those things.

And so I just want to say thank you so much Revive Our Hearts for all of you that make it possible—many behind the scenes. I'm so grateful. I just pray that the Lord would return to you in abundance All that you've poured out for Him and for others to the glory of our Lord Jesus. I'm so grateful for Revive Our Hearts. My life is forever changed through the Holy Spirit, the power of God working through all of you there.

Dannah: So good to hear from Karen! If you’d like to call and let us know how God has used Revive Our Hearts in your life, here’s the number for our testimony call-in line: 269–697–6161. We’d love to hear from you.

Well, on yesterday’s episode of Revive Our Hearts, Nancy gave us an overview of the book of Daniel. Today, why don’t you grab your Bible and follow along in Daniel chapter 1? Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: I had the great privilege as I was growing up—kindergarten through high school—of attending a Christian school. I am so thankful for that, and also for being in strong, Bible-preaching churches, Sunday school, family devotions—just so many ways that the Word was infused into my mind and my heart the whole time I was growing up.

But I remember distinctly a class I had in tenth grade. It was called World Cultures, and the teacher was a man named Roy Parmelee. He was also the boys’ basketball coach, the varsity basketball coach, and the guys called him Coach Parm. In this class with Mr. Parmelee, we studied the rise and fall of nations throughout the history of the world.

Mr. Parmelee, Coach Parm, helped us see that these visible world events were not just natural, earthly happenings, but that above and beyond and around all that we could see in the history books, there is an unseen, wise, sovereign God who is overseeing all that is going on here on this earth.

I’m so thankful for that class and the perspective it gave me. It wasn’t a new perspective, because I had parents who from my earliest childhood had been reminding me that God is big, God is great, God is good, and we can trust Him to write our story. But to see it in such a vivid way in this world culture class was a really significant marker in my life.

Turn with me, if you would, to the book of Daniel. We introduced this series on Heaven rules yesterday, and today we’re going to start our journey through the book of Daniel. We’re going to just take one chapter every day or so for as long as it takes to walk through the book of Daniel, and we’re looking for God sightings. We’re looking for evidences that Heaven rules.

So I want to encourage you to mark in your Bible, to put a little HR in the margin when you see something that indicates Heaven rules. You’ll see all kinds of things going on on earth, but what are the evidences, the reminders, that God is in charge, that God’s “got the whole world in His hands”?

We’re going to read through these chapters. This text in the book of Daniel, for the most part, just speaks for itself. I’ll stop along the way and shine additional light on the passage, just some of the insights the Lord has been showing me. Again, we’re not going to take a deep dive into the book of Daniel. There are lots of other things we could study, but we’re just looking for this one overarching view that Heaven rules.

Oh Lord, I pray that as we open Your Word, You would open our eyes, You would open our hearts, You would open our understanding to see and to know down to the core of our beings that Heaven really does rule. Not only did You rule back in Daniel’s day, 2700 years ago, but You rule in our day today, and You always will. So we praise and worship You in Jesus’ name, amen.

Daniel 1, verse 1: 

In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it.

Now this was in about 605 BC. This was an invasion that had been prophesied years earlier by the prophet Jeremiah. Now, let’s just stop here. “In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it.” I want you to notice in this passage that there’s always two perspectives.

Just as Coach Parm taught us in World Cultures in tenth grade, there’s the view from the earth. This is the visible reality. These are the things you can see. These are the things you can write in the history books. That’s one perspective. But then there’s also always heaven’s vantage point. This is what only God sees and what God knows. And this perspective is just as real. It’s even more real than what’s going on here on earth. It’s just as real, but it’s unseen. It’s invisible to our human eyes.

So from earth’s perspective, there were two kingdoms: Judah and Babylon. There were two kings: Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. One overpowered the other. King Nebuchadnezzar invaded and took over Jerusalem in the kingdom of Judah.

Now, when you see what’s going on here on earth in the Bible, just like reading a news report or seeing the news on prime time or reading a chapter in a history book, it’s all about stuff going on here in this world.

When you have geopolitical realities, there are kings, there are nations. They come, they go. They rise, they fall. There are battles, there are wars. This happens all the time in our world. That’s what the news is about—what’s going on here on earth, that perspective.

We see this happening not only between nations, but sometimes between family members or coworkers or friends or within different communities. Haven’t we seen a polarized, divided culture over the past couple of years—even more so in our world—than most of us can remember? There are conflicts. There are tensions. There are differences. There are disputes. That’s the visible reality.

So, back to verse 1: “King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. (Verse 2: He captured) King Jehoiakim.”

Now, I’m going to skip to the end of verse 2 because I want to come back to another part in just a minute.

[He captured] King Jehoiakim . . . along with some of the vessels from the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the land of Babylon, to the house of his god, and put the vessels in the treasury of his god.

So here we have this godless king, Nebuchadnezzar, who ransacks Jerusalem, captures the city, destroys the temple, and carts off its sacred items to put in the temple of his pagan god. Let me just say: This was a humiliating, devastating tragedy for the Jews. And for sure, this is not the story that God’s people would have wanted for their nation and for their holy city and for the temple where the presence of God had dwelt. To say that the people of God were in dire straits would have been an understatement.

But . . . here’s what encourages our hearts as we read this passage: we realize God was not absent from the scene.

We just saw the visible earthly perspective. But stay in verse 2 there. Now we see the hidden, unseen reality. In verse 2,

The Lord [Adonai—it’s a name of God we talked about yesterday] handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to Nebuchadnezzar.

Now, that’s not what they were writing about in the news. That’s not what they were saying in the history books. They said King Nebuchadnezzar did this. But the Bible says that the Lord handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to Nebuchadnezzar. Heaven rules.

Who handed the King of Judah over to the King of Babylon? Who did it? God did it! The Lord did it! From the perspective of the Jews, it looked like it was Nebuchadnezzar who was coming in and doing this. And, in fact, he was, but he wasn’t the ultimate cause. He was just the instrument that God used to accomplish His purposes in the people of Judah. God did it.

It looked like King Nebuchadnezzar was calling the shots. But if the Jews could have seen what was happening from heaven’s perspective, they would have realized that Nebuchadnezzar was not ultimately in charge. God was. God is sovereign over nations and kings. He is always working out His purposes in this world for the glory of His name.

In this case, there were multiple purposes. One, clearly through the book of Daniel, He wanted to reveal Himself to the Babylonian king who didn’t believe in God. He had his own god—his own gods. God wanted to make Himself known to Nebuchadnezzar—and that will happen in the book of Daniel.

But God was also disciplining His people who had claimed that He was their God, but they had forsaken Him. The plunder of the temple at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar merely symbolized what had already taken place in the hearts of God’s people. They had followed after other gods. Why should they care when articles in their temple were given over to those other false gods? 

We see that God is sovereign over rulers, over nations, over geopolitical affairs in our world. That’s the macro picture. That’s the big picture. God is big. God is in charge of everything.

But I love what we see in the book of Daniel also, that God is sovereign over the events and the happenings and the details in our individual lives. That’s the micro. It’s true even when the script turns out far different than what we would have written if the pen had been in our hands.

Look at verse 3, Daniel, chapter 1:

Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility young men [commentators believed they were maybe fourteen years old—young teens, young men)—without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to attend the king. (vv. 3–5)

Nebuchadnezzar now drafts some of the finest young men from Israel to serve in his palace. They were bright. They were talented. They were handsome. They were strong. They were healthy. They were from aristocratic backgrounds. He put them into an intensive, three-year training program (an MBA in Babylon). He provided them with a stipend, the best possible food and drink, all in preparation to serve him in the Babylonian empire.

Now, as you think about this, it must have been heady stuff for these young men to be elevated and honored in this way. I think for many and maybe most of the young Hebrew men—there weren’t just four; there were others—they thought about this bright career path that was being handed to them. Maybe that diminished any sense of loss that they might have felt from being taken from their homeland.

But not so for Daniel and his three friends. These four young men stood out as being different. Look at verse 6:

Among them, [among all these capable, talented men], from the tribe of Judah [Judah Heights, that’s the tribe of Judah], were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief eunuch gave them names; [he changed their names, he assigned them names] he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah.

What was he doing? He was trying to assimilate these men into the Babylonian culture. “Leave your homeland, your legacy, your history, your cultures. Leave it all behind. There’s a new sheriff in town. There’s a new day. And you are now going to become Babylonians.”

So their Hebrew names that they brought with them, that they were given at birth, each of those names reflected their faith in the God of the Hebrews. You see two of them end with the letters “el”—Daniel, Mishael—that’s El, God, Elohim. That’s a reference to the God of Israel. And then two of their names end with “ah”—Hananiah and Azariah—that’s related to Jehovah, Yahweh. These were names that reflected their parents’ faith in the God of Israel. 

So the king’s servants said, “No more God of Israel for you. The names he gave them, the new names, were all connected to Babylonian gods. Belteshazzar—Bel was one of the gods of Babylon that Nebuchadnezzar worshipped. So he’s saying, “You’re going to change. Your whole culture is going to change. Your whole lives are going to be changed. You’re going to be re-programmed to think like Babylonians and worship like Babylonians.”

What appeared to be a random, lottery-like selection process, was not random at all. It was God’s hand, God’s intervention on behalf of Daniel and his friends.

As I thought about it, this was also God’s way of raising up a witness in this pagan land at the highest levels. God chose these men. Now, they thought they were chosen by the king, but God chose these men.

These four men, as we’ll see throughout the book of Daniel, stood out for their loyalty to their heritage, for their courage to stay true to their God—even when that required them to take a stand against the edicts of the king of Babylon. They were willing to swim upstream against the current. They were motivated by devotion to their God, the Most High. They never forgot Him. Bel is not the most high god. Jehovah, Elohim, Adonai, He is the Most High God. And their ultimate allegiance was to Him above every earthly authority.

Verse 8 tells us that: 

Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief eunuch not to defile himself.”

Now, the fact that Heaven rules doesn’t mean we can just sit back and live careless, indulgent lives. Daniel had a responsibility here, and he took it. He determined that he would not defile himself.

And yet, as he made those resolutions, and his three friends along with him, we see the hand of God protecting him and directing him, and them, as they navigated the challenges and the complexities of living in this sinful, fallen world. They were going to have to make some tough choices. They were going to be put in some hard places. How were they going to do this?

Well, you see the supernatural hand of God. Here’s another Heaven rules sighting in verse 9 of Daniel 1: 

God had granted Daniel kindness and compassion from the chief eunuch. 

In the midst of the king’s demands, here’s a man who looks with favor on Daniel and his friends. Why? Because God made him do it. God moved him.

God will move heaven and earth and do whatever is necessary to meet your need when He knows that you need protection or direction. But you’re going to have to resolve to stand firm, to be courageous, to be loyal to God, to be devoted to Him. Then you watch God do whatever He has to do to meet your needs in that situation.

The same God who handed Judah over to the King of Babylon was also at work in the details of Daniel’s life . . . first giving his supervisor a kind attitude toward Daniel and making him open-minded to Daniel’s appeal.

What does Proverbs 21 tell us in verse 1? “The king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand.” Even kings that don’t acknowledge God, kings that resist God, kings that hate God, kings that worship foreign gods and false gods that king’s heart is in God’s hand, and God turns his heart like the rivers of water in whatever way God wants.

Nebuchadnezzar is not in charge. You put the name of any other king or ruler or president or leader in your workplace or in your government in the world, you put their name in the blank. They are not in charge. God is in charge

Now, the fact that God was in charge and that God turned his supervisor’s heart still didn’t make Daniel’s life easy. Everything didn’t immediately fall into place. Look at verse 10:

[This supervisor] said to Daniel, "I fear my lord, the king, who assigned your food and drink. What if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men your age? You would endanger my life with the king."

So Daniel said to the guard whom the chief eunuch had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, "Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and deal with your servants based on what you see." He agreed with them about this and tested them for ten days.” (vv. 10–14)

Now, why do you think the supervisor agreed to this, knowing his life could be at stake? Sure, he felt kindly toward Daniel and his friends, but he was afraid the king was going to kill him if this didn’t turn out right. Why did he agree to it? Because Heaven rules. The king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand. This servant’s heart was in the Lord’s hand. So he agreed to it.

You can trust God to write your story. Right? God is always at work.

Well, verse 15 tells us that,

At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. So the guard continued to remove their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables. (vv. 15–16)

There’s lots more we could say about Daniel and his friends, and maybe someday we’ll do a series on that, but I want you to see here that God honored the courage of these young men. God moved on their behalf in such a way that their consciences could be clear toward their God and that the king’s objectives could be fulfilled.

Each step of the way as the story unfolded, God was with them. God was writing their story. God was equipping and fitting and enabling them for this calling as young Hebrew men transported, transplanted to Babylon, and serving under a pagan king.

Look at verse 17—here’s another God sighting, another Heaven rules:

God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t the diet that accounted for what happened. Now, eating healthy will make you think more clearly. But it’s God. It’s clear in this passage God gave them knowledge and understanding in literature and wisdom. 

And Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind. (v. 17)

HR—Heaven rules! Mark it in your Bible. God did it! God gave Daniel and his friends these gifts for a purpose. They were going to face situations in which they would need these abilities, this unusual wisdom, this ability to understand vision and dreams of every kind. We’re going to see that in the next chapter.

The providence of God, that’s what goes before us. It makes provision for what lies ahead. God knew what they would need before they knew it, before they got there. “Pro”—before. “Video”—to see. God’s providence—He sees. He knows. He’s orchestrating everything that’s coming, and He makes provision for you before you even get there.

You can count on God to give you what you will need for opportunities and circumstances and challenges that lie ahead that you can’t even begin to see at this moment—but God sees it. God knows it. God knows what’s going to happen in your health, in your family, in your finances, in your job, in this country, in this world, and all that’s going on in this world, God sees and God knows. He is at work.

When you need to make some decisions and you need to make some hard choices, God is going to give you—He’s given you—the gifts, the wisdom you need and that you will need in those moments.

Look at verse 18 in Daniel, chapter 1:

At the end of the time that the king had said to present them, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king interviewed them, and among all of them, no one was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they began to attend the king. In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and mediums in his entire kingdom. (vv. 18–20)

These are young men who are still in their mid­-teens, and they’re ten times wiser and smarter and more capable and had better answers than the guys who had been studying for a lifetime to do all this stuff. Why? Because God gave them knowledge and understanding. Heaven rules.

Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus, the king of Persia. (v. 21)

So, from the time that Daniel and his friends were taken from Judah to Babylon until the time that Daniel served under King Cyrus, there were nearly seventy years—from the time he was a young teenager until the time that this passage refers to under King Cyrus.

During those years, kings and kingdoms rose and fell, and Daniel outlasted them all. Daniel served faithfully and effectively in a pagan environment because God was faithful to him. 

  • God provided for him. 
  • God protected him. 
  • God directed him. 
  • God sustained him. 
  • God delivered his friends from the fiery furnace we’re going to read about. 
  • God shut the mouths of hungry lions.

Daniel and his friends were invincible for as long as God wanted to keep them here on earth and use them. The kings weren’t invincible. God took them off the scene when it was time for them to be done. But God kept Daniel and his friends serving in this influential place, representing Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth.

It was God who endowed Daniel and his friends with superior knowledge, understanding, and abilities. It was God who raised them up to positions of influence—not for their own sakes, not so they would have bragging rights—but as part of the greater story that God was writing in the lives of His people and in the lives of these kings under whom Daniel served and in world events yet to come. Heaven rules.

God moves. He moves kings. He moves circumstances. He moves in our lives, often in mysterious, unseen, and incomprehensible ways, always working to accomplish His purposes in us and through us in our world. Heaven rules.

Back to that tenth grade World Cultures class, that was a significant year for me. Even as I was sitting in that class as a teenage girl hearing from Coach Parm about how God rules, God reigns, God is sovereign over kings and events—we studied the world wars and different risings and fallings of different kingdoms and nations—but he kept reminding us that Heaven rules, that God was writing a story that you couldn’t see and you didn’t know.

Well, that was what was happening in school in my life that year, but there were other things that were happening in my life. The night before school started that September of my tenth grade year, our home burned in a fire during the night. All the lives were spared. We all got out. We had to leave that home. We were farmed out and lived in a couple different homes over the next several months while we got things back in order.

At the end of that school year, my mother had brain surgery for a life-threatening brain tumor. And through the course of that year, my dad’s business was under huge assault. It was being threatened, and he almost totally lost the business he’d spent years building. His business had been very successful. During that year, his business lost money hand over fist.

So there was a lot going on in our family that year. I was sitting in a tenth grade World Cultures class learning that Heaven rules—Heaven rules. And I was living in a home—the oldest of seven children at that time—with parents who, regardless of what was happening in our lives, were constantly reminding us: God knows what He’s doing. God is good. God is faithful. God can be trusted. Heaven rules.

I tell you: I knew that theologically before I got to tenth grade because it had been drilled into me from the time I was very, very little. But I came to learn it in a new way that year. I look back to tenth grade World Cultures, all the life experiences of that year, and it was just driving an anchor into my heart that has never failed me, has never shifted, has never left me in all the changes and challenges and craziness and perplexities of living life in this world over decades since.

I’m here to tell you: What I learned that year and what I still believe from the deepest part of my being—Heaven rules. Heaven rules.

I want to tell you: This is not a trite thought. This is not a throwaway line. This is huge! And this, my friend, is what will anchor your heart when you’re being tossed and thrown in the storms of life. Heaven rules.

Dannah: When your child breaks your heart. When you’ve just lost your job. When your marriage is falling apart. When Christians are being tortured and killed simply for following Jesus. When economies crash. When the biopsy results come back positive. At those times our hearts really do need to be anchored to the sovereignty of God.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be back to lead us in prayer. She and her husband, Robert Wolgemuth, wrote a book to help us remember that Heaven rules. It’s called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. Nancy mentioned providence today as she talked about Daniel and his friends. We serve a providing God.

This week, Robert and Nancy’s book on providence is our way of saying “thank you” to you for your gift of any size to help support the mission of Revive Our Hearts. We depend on donations to keep going, so we’d love to hear from you. To donate, go to our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, and click where you see “Donate,” or call us at 1–800–569–5959. When you make your donation, be sure to specify you’re interested in the book You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

Do you ever feel discouraged by the actions of governments? In a highly-politicized environment, it’s easy to see the choices made by government officials and think, It’s hopeless! Tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy will show us from Daniel chapter 2 how far from the truth that thinking really is. Now, let’s pray with her.

Nancy: Thank You, Father, for this sweet assurance, blessed assurance: Heaven rules. We worship You. We praise You. Because even when we cannot see, we cannot feel, we’re not sure what lies ahead, You know. You’ve gone before us. You’ve made provision. You’re equipping us and fitting us with all that we’re going to need.

So we lean back. We lean hard into Your providence. We take a deep breath. Our hearts are lifted and strengthened and sustained and encouraged. We’re joyful in the midst of trials, patient in affliction, rejoicing in hope because Heaven rules. Amen.

Pointing you to the providence of God, this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Calling you to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB unless otherwise noted.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.