It was a great question from someone on Facebook.
In my book, Losers Like Us, I illustrated how – excluding Jesus – everyone in the Bible had faults and sins just like ours, and therefore they were all losers like us.
Then came that Facebook question: What about Daniel? Was he an exception?
I had to think about that one.
The book of Daniel is set during Israel’s captivity in Babylon (in the 500s BC)—yet it mentions elements of Greek culture which did not exist at that time, and it is written partly in Hebrew and partly in Aramaic (a later language). For these and other reasons, many scholars believe that someone else wrote Daniel’s story long after his death, just as Moses wrote the patriarchs’ stories long after their deaths. Also, some scholars believe Daniel was not a real person and the book of Daniel is just an allegory which was written to encourage the Jews, perhaps during the oppressive reign of Antiochus Epiphanes IV (about 165 BC).
I can’t say exactly when or by whom the book was written, but I do believe Daniel was a real person because Jesus calls him “the prophet Daniel” (Matthew 24:15).
From the beginning, Scripture presents Daniel as a man of great character, and never accuses him of a single flaw. As a captive in Babylon, he walks a fine line: with great humility he submits to his captors, yet with great courage he refuses to obey their pagan demands. When Darius, the Babylonian king, decrees that those who pray to anyone other than him will be fed to the lions (Daniel 6:7-9), Daniel continues praying to Yahweh every day, in front of his window, just as he always has (a respectful “neener neener”). His trust in God is complete. And when he is thrown to the lions, God shuts their mouths (Daniel 6:22) to save his life.
With a bio like that, it’s hard to find fault with Daniel. So the question about whether he still qualifies as a loser gave me pause.
Yet I conclude that, yes, Daniel was a loser. I say this not because I feel superior to, or critical of, Daniel – but because he was human, and therefore a loser in the sense of being a sinner. Thus he is not an exception to the rule.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog (2015/06/17), “Can we be sinners but not losers?”, only Jesus lived a sinless life; all the rest of us, including Daniel, have been sinners and therefore losers. And as long as we live on this earth, sin is with us even though we have received grace and salvation (I John 1:5-10).
But there is another, more personal indication that Daniel was a sinner / loser: his response to the presence of holiness.
In Daniel 10, a man appears before Daniel. But this is no ordinary man. This man is ablaze with fire, shining like polished brass or bronze (v. 5)—just like the man seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:27) and John (Revelation 1:13-17). John identifies this man as the risen Christ (Revelation 1:11, 13, 17).
Yet Daniel, Ezekiel, and John all respond to this man in the same way: they fall to the ground (Dan. 10:9, Ezekiel 1:28, Rev. 1:17).
Because unholiness cannot coexist with holiness – just as darkness cannot coexist with light. In the presence of God’s perfect holiness, I believe Daniel falls to the ground because of his own sins and impurities, even though they are not specified by name.
Yet Daniel lived a life full of faith and power, whether he was defying a maniacal king or facing down a den of hungry lions. He was both a sinner and a saint—at the same time.
All of us, including Daniel, are sinners and therefore losers. Only when we acknowledge our guilt and brokenness can we begin to understand the healing power and significance of grace.
As the life of Daniel shows us, following Jesus is not about totally conquering all imperfection, all of the time; instead, it is about surrendering our imperfection to God, while he builds his kingdom in the middle of it.