Focus on the Message

Don't get distracted.

Daniel 5:17

Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.”

Daniel declines the reward up front. He doesn’t seem to be trying to insult the king, but it reflects an attitude that’s unusual. Most folks would jump at the opportunity to be the third ruler in the kingdom. The physical gifts are none too shabby either.

But Daniel’s attitude is almost like “I’m from another planet and I’m here to help you.” It shows that he’s not impressed. He’s not even interested.

His focus in on the message.

This is the attitude we need to cultivate. We are to be in the world but not of the world. Everyone around us seems to care about bling. Power and popularity are even more enticing. How can we resist?

It’s not easy and it takes time to fully learn. The world’s priorities eventually prove stupid, but only years of observation make this lesson sink in.

Daniel knew his people’s history. He knew about Jeremiah’s prophesy of their captivity, and he was living through its fulfillment. He had witnessed the fulfillment of his own prophesies. He experienced those years of observation.

So, Daniel’s faith was more than just a theology he had memorized. He knew it in his bones, or, as Romans 10:9 puts it, in his heart. That theology clearly states that worldly things like power, popularity, and bling are not important and do not last. Daniel truly believed that, and he acted like he believed it.

But—and this is as important as it is subtle—teaching that lesson to children is essential to their knowing it in their bones later. If they haven’t memorized this theology, they won’t even notice when it’s validated. They’ll be thinking about something else.

You don’t notice things when you don’t know what to look for. That was the purpose of the Christian Eyes series that ran just before this Daniel series— to train our eyes to see all things in terms of His kingdom.

Things like bling, power, and popularity are distractions. Even when we’ve memorized the fact that His kingdom is the important thing, we tend to forget when we’re dazzled by some worldly attraction. That’s part of why the Babylonian kings were in the habit of offering spectacular rewards for merely interpreting a dream or some writing. They expected people to be thinking about the reward.

But Daniel wasn’t distracted.

Daniel had Christian eyes.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.