Daniel’s End by James R. Coggins

Daniel chapter 5 tells the story of Belshazzar, King of Babylon, hosting a drunken party in 539 BC. In a direct challenge to the true God, he drank toasts to the Babylonian gods using the sacred goblets taken from God’s temple in Jerusalem. In response, a disembodied hand appeared and wrote on the wall of his palace a prophecy of Babylon’s destruction (the famous “writing on the wall”). When the pagan Babylonian sorcerers could not interpret the writing, at the suggestion of the queen mother, God’s prophet Daniel was called in to interpret it, which he did. In accordance with the prophecy, the city of Babylon was captured by the Persians that same night, and Belshazzar was killed.

By the time of this story, Daniel must have been an old man. He had already been in exile about sixty-six years. He was quite possibly retired. He was no longer head of the wise men or of the Babylonian civil service, and the king didn’t even seem to know who he was. His many years of faithful, competent service and his miraculous interpretations of dreams seem to have been forgotten, at least by those now in power. All he had spent his life building up in the Babylonian Empire was about to be destroyed. His friend King Nebuchadnezzar was dead, and a new king was in power whose policies he despised. No mention is made of Daniel’s three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), so it is possible that they also were dead. Perhaps worst of all, as an old man, Daniel knew that it was too late for him to ever return home to Jerusalem; he was too old to make that arduous journey and begin rebuilding a devastated city.

Is this how God rewards His faithful servants? Daniel could have been a bitter, lonely old man. He could have stopped serving God. He could have stopped telling people about a God they didn’t want to believe in. He could have simply given in to tiredness and despair. But the fact is that we find Daniel remaining as faithful to God at the end of his life as he was at the beginning. He was still exercising his gifts. He was still proclaiming the message of the one true God, whether anybody listened or not. His old friends had died, but he had developed friendships with other people, possibly including the queen mother. (We don’t know if they ever talked, but she knew he was alive and still active.)

So many of God’s servants today don’t finish well. Many retire and stop serving in the church just as they have stopped working at their jobs, even though they have more time now. Some stop telling others about Jesus—they conclude that they did that when they were young and, as is the case with earning a boy scout badge, they don’t have to do it again. Or perhaps they have lost their enthusiasm for God. Tired from the battles of life, they have stopped fighting. Thinking they cannot change the downward spiral of a pagan society, they have stopped trying. Assuming they can no longer be tempted to sin, they have relaxed in their observation of the spiritual disciplines they have practiced for years. They have accepted the immorality of the young without protest. They may have become lonely and bitter and unpleasant. Some may have even deserted God altogether.

Satan does not take pity on the old and weak, or the young and foolish. We are immersed in the battle between good and evil all of our lives. There is no retirement. It is possible for us to lose our way in our last years. In a pagan society, this is the commitment all North American Christians need to make: I will remain faithful to God’s call, serving Him till the end of my life.

Excerpted from Living for God in a Pagan Society: What Daniel Can Teach Us by James R. Coggins (Mill Lake Books).

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is www.coggins.ca
This entry was posted in James R. Coggins and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.