The Daniel Prototype: An Overcomer in Babylon
by Dean Briggs
Imagine a vast city of sun-dried-mud brick dwellings crammed together claustrophobically beside towering structures with walls covered in dazzling tile and huge gates guarded by statues of mythical creatures. Everywhere public propaganda proclaims the greatness of the god-king, who is venerated on penalty of death. The desert heat is unrelenting. The peasants teeming in the busy streets live lives of drudgery and routine. The poor live further out in hovels, while the wealthy live in opulent, colorful homes attended to by many slaves. People, priests, and rulers all make sacrifices to a pantheon of gods in decorated temples and atop ziggurats in the city center near the king’s palace. A mighty river cuts the city in half while winding streets hide endless dark alleys. Brothels and shamanism are as much a part of daily life as the endless vegetable carts and beggars who line the streets. A more civilized visitor might be shocked at the debauchery that happens in public on a daily basis.
But no, this is civilization—the height of it.
Welcome to ancient Babylon, a little over five centuries before the birth of Christ. There, as we peer over his shoulder, we see an old, faithful Jew spending his final years doing what he has done for decades: praying to Yahweh. This is a dangerous occupation for the old man, for it is not the land of Yahweh, but of Nabu, Marduk, Ishtar, and many other demonic powers. While prayer anchors the old man’s daily rhythms, his devotion has been far from easy. For nearly seventy years—a period spanning his entire adulthood and much of his youth—the old man has wasted his life in captivity along with hundreds of thousands of his countrymen. Yet others see a different story. Though he is quite aged, Daniel, whose name means “God is my judge,” actually wields enormous influence. He has served multiple rulers spanning the empires of Babylon, Media, and Persia. How can this be?
As you read this and ponder Daniel’s extraordinary life, you might be holding an iPad and sipping a cup of coffee from the convenience of your living room. Our world has certainly changed. An unsettling, disturbing new era is upon us. The return of Christ draws nearer every day. Whether it is five years or thirty–five years from now, it is a breath, yet nearer than any other day in 6,000 years of history. What does that mean? How then shall we live?
I don’t know any more relevant figure to study than Daniel.
None of us can really fathom the oppressive darkness of Daniel’s time nor the staggering beauty and countless seductions it offered him, even as an exile. None of us can travel through time, so we have to rely on other data, but we don’t actually need to travel through time at all. Tellingly, Babylon along with her successive empires were so infamously steeped in wickedness—in politics, economics, trade, sexuality, and routine occultism—that Babylon’s persistent value system is highlighted for purging at the return of Christ. The judgment of Babylon is part of the culmination of redemption, restoration, and justice for the entire earth (Revelation 17–19). If the world feels like it is spinning out of control and growing dark beyond redemption, I assure you, it is not worse than Babylon. But we’re not far.
In pondering this fact, we are tempted to make a mistake in two parts. We either assume Babylon to be less dark than it really was or so dark and oppressive that no righteous labor could survive, much less thrive. Daniel proves us wrong on all counts. At roughly eighty-three years old, he had been one of the most significant power brokers whose influence had spanned three great and terrible empires. Though a Jew, he might as well be a native-born Babylonian or Persian prince. He was a man of rare virtue, incredible gifts, and unwavering faithfulness. Neither astrology, sorcery, court intrigue, military coups, labyrinthine politics, barbaric punishments, or routine temptations—including greed, self-promotion, and self-preservation—were sufficient to spoil Daniel’s soul or ruin his witness.
Instead, Daniel continually responded with wisdom, excellence, and faithful intercession when he was positioned at the highest, most influential levels of trusted leadership—no matter the cost to his well-being. He did this while searching for answers to the dilemmas of his times, the fulfillment of prophecy, and for greater influence in the demonized land of his captivity. He was a spiritual activist and a pragmatic diplomat. This forms a template for our own posture amidst the challenges of modern life.
Turning to Daniel 9, we read: “In the first year of Darius . . . king over the realm of the Chaldeans— . . . I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (emphasis added).
When Daniel realized it was time for the miserable deportation to end, he did not rub his hands together in satisfaction and head for the pool. Though the duration of the exile had already been announced by a trustworthy prophet—the same one who had tearfully predicted it to begin with—Daniel did not passively expect that any prophetic outcome lay outside the purview of his own stewardship in prayer. Daniel’s modus operandi was human cooperation with God’s sovereignty. Oh, how greatly God loves such an intercessor—something the angels repeatedly told him (Daniel 9:23; 10:11, 19).
Why did Daniel respond this way? Imagine a prisoner who has lost track of time. He expects to die in prison. But then one day a guard shows up and tells him his sentence is complete and that he will be released the next day. What a surprise! One type of prisoner might dance and celebrate, but another more thoughtful prisoner might be overwhelmed to realize all that had been lost. Now that liberation has come, the full toll of his crimes settles in. The ending of a criminal sentence could push such a man or woman to seriously reconsider—with great remorse—all the lost time and damage done and to reconsider whatever crimes had put him in prison to begin with. Daniel committed no such crimes, but he does give his soul to this kind of introspection and prayer on behalf of a potentially unwitting, insolent nation. To the degree that it was up to him, Daniel borrowed the troubles that others had made, took the word of Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s own grieving into his bosom, then turned those troubles into fuel for intercession. He did this to properly own the wretched past that he might help create a different future. Daniel essentially said, “I am too old to return, but I will pave the way back for another generation. I will wrap them in the spirit of my own repentance and ask God to preserve them so that they will never wander from the Lord again.”
The selfless wisdom of this very practical “now” prayer was followed by an astonishing, unexpected angelic visitation—by no less a figure than Gabriel himself! Gabriel proceeded to declare end-time mysteries of the highest order, including the pivotal puzzle piece of the seventy weeks. In praying faithfully for what was now behind him, and therefore covering the transition right in front of him, the old intercessor became a prophet for what lay ahead of him and his people.
Intercession and prophetic activity operate in high congruency. Daniel chapter 9 grants us a window into how God assigns and distributes divine intelligence. Firstly, He looks for faithfulness. Secondly, He looks for steady intercession. While we often focus on interpreting the mysterious details Daniel was shown in this encounter, at the macro level we see perhaps an even greater mystery: the precious flow of trust and revelation between God and the person who will give oneself to the burden of prayer.
Notice how Daniel appealed to God for an understanding of local prophecy, purpose, and mercy but in response was shown eternal prophecy, purpose, and mercy. Nowhere did Daniel’s intercession include any requests for angelic visitations or cool, futuristic prophetic words. Yet out of what should have been a bitter, meaningless life—exiles don’t have status, privilege, or power—Daniel carved into heaven with ruts of prayer, steady virtue, and selfless intercession. He thus becomes perhaps the preeminent case study in all of Scripture for how a life of intercession potentiates our own existence. For instance:
- Daniel inquires about seventy years of Jeremiah’s prophecy of exile and desolation, and the angel answers with a far loftier panoply of seventy Sabbath cycles of years in the historical restoration of Jerusalem for the Messiah’s eternal purpose. In other words, the revelation granted to Daniel far surpassed the scope of his own request (Daniel 9:3–19).
- Daniel appeals to the Lord’s mercy while acknowledging the due process of the old covenant’s legal penalty upon oath-breakers (Daniel 9:11). In response, he is shown the totality of redemption which the Lord will accomplish through Christ in the new covenant (Daniel 9:24–27).
- Daniel inadvertently contends with principalities and powers. In this, we see that prayer is fundamentally a series of divine transactions. Whether or not we ever see as Daniel saw, he gives us the glimpse we need to know that prayer is our entry point into divine realities. In devotional prayer, we commune with God. In intercession, we enter the very battlefield trodden by angels and demons (Daniel 10:5–14).
And so, this is how we prepare for the days ahead. We build such a life. In prayer, we become a lens through which the light of God is both refracted and enlarged from small to panoramic impact, projecting the will of God through the agency of our life like a lens upon human history. Our local concerns in prayer may open doorways of global import. This is how God delights to use His faithful Daniels. It’s a job with ten million openings, and everyone who applies is hired. But even more than our intercession, we are to learn to delight in the privilege of knowing and loving Jesus. Together let us throw the doors of our hearts open and fully return to Jesus, the Desire of All Nations. He is truly worthy of it all.
In summary, a lifestyle of prayer and fasting positions “whosoever will” as a magnet for the spirit of revelation and understanding. As the Lord’s return draws near, the Bride of Christ will find herself increasingly surrounded by hostile forces, decadent culture, and increasingly pagan and lawless societies. Into this very darkness, we are sent as sheep among wolves, embedded as yeast hidden in a lump of dough, and positioned as light held aloft in the darkness, anointed by the Holy Spirit to grow “ever brighter unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
Make no mistake, the politics, economics, immorality, and increasing occultism of our modern era are troubling in the extreme. Though authority will be given to “persecute the saints of the Most High,” which can cause fear if you let it, I believe Daniel lived as a prototype of one with a witness of dominion in the midst of staggering darkness and pressure (Daniel 7:25). Babylon will be judged, and we, the saints of God, are called to rejoice in her downfall. We need not fear Babylon. Babylon should fear us. Jesus is returning, beloved. We have received an unshakable kingdom from which we can live with unshakable hope. If you are alive today, should the Lord tarry, your prayer life is your path to entering His rest and then laboring with strength. You have influence. You can move angels. You can interpret dreams. You can receive wisdom from on high and mold culture by your obedience, humility, and steadfast spirit.
This is what the RETURN conference is about: preparing the Church for days of extraordinary transition, testing, and glory. Between our pre-conference and live breakouts, you’ll have access to dozens of short, rich teachings spanning four tracks: prayer, promise, power, and worship. In addition, the main sessions will plunge us deep into corporate worship and biblical perspective while also offering dynamic interaction, Q&A, prophetic and healing ministry, networking and friendship with people spanning six continents, and more. It’s far more than any person can take in, which is why we’ll offer an exclusive option to get all of the video archives once the conference ends. RETURN 2022 is September 22-24, and you can register here. We look forward to spending these three days together.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.
Dean is happily married to Jeanie, and the proud father of eight grown children. His books include Ekklesia Rising, Consumed, the visionary, two-part Partakers of the Divine, and the YA fantasy series, Legends of Karac Tor. He also co-authored The Jesus Fast with Lou Engle, now available in multiple languages. A former pastor and church planter, Dean is a consultant, dreamer, and Bible teacher. As part of the senior leadership of IHOPKC, he travels and speaks around the world. The Briggs live in the midwest.