Daniel is one of the most delightful characters in all of Scripture. Having been displaced from his native land as a teenager, he lived in Gentile territory where he was ridiculed and persecuted because of his stand for God. Yet time and again, God promoted his humble servant and delivered him from the evil intentions of his enemies. When he was over 80 years of age, God was still causing Daniel to prosper (Dan 6:28).
A look at this stage of his life from the sixth chapter of Daniel provides a positive example for seniors today. His qualities reflect a mature walk of faith that has been continually nurtured by his close relationship with the Most High God. He is still actively engaged in life and, like the righteous of Psalm 92, he flourishes and brings forth fruit in old age.
In his 80s, Daniel was still not considering retirement. As prime minister under King Darius, he had major responsibilities. Age had not sidelined this faithful man of God. His service was still thorough and without corruption or negligence, so that even his enemies who examined his performance with their evil eyes could not bring an accusation against him. Now there is a goal for each of us, even if our responsibility is less than what Daniel had. Mental alertness and physical strength decline with advancing years and, if we are wise, we will recognize this reality and not seek to hang on to what we cannot now accomplish effectively. But it is vital that we, like Daniel, retain a purpose in life so we are never too old to ask “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Once we know what to do, let’s do it heartily as unto the Lord.
Daniel never lost his distinctive character. Having spent about seven decades away from Judah, his homeland, he was still referred to as one of the captives from Judah. He could have been identified as the one with remarkable accomplishments in Babylon, but this was only where he lived and not where his heart was. Even Darius called him “the servant of the living God.” His aspirations were linked with his homeland. Like Daniel, where we live is where we serve others, buy our groceries, and do those things that are needful. We are in the world geographically, but not of the world in spirit. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20, NKJV).
Daniel’s prayer life was well known even by the government leaders who opposed him. It was this knowledge that caused them to develop their devious plan that resulted in Daniel being thrown into the den of lions. But even this opposition could not deter him from his well-established habit of prayer. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, He knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Dan 6:10, NKJV). Seemingly, years earlier he had established a consistent routine in his prayer life. Regardless of the official or personal demands of any particular day, he would steal away as a top priority to consciously enjoy personal audience with God. He had an established practice of praying on his knees. He prayed aloud. He prayed with the windows open. Although these externals are not required for effective communication in prayer, they demonstrate how established Daniel’s practice of prayer really was. Surely, the core reason for Daniel’s spiritual wealth and effectiveness in old age lies with his consistent relationship with his God. He demonstrates what is taught in Isaiah 40:31 that “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Once Daniel knew that the evil plot against him hinged on his prayer life, he could have changed his practice. Nothing stated that he had to pray audibly with his windows open or on his knees. Why couldn’t he just pray quietly in his heart, and thus avoid being caught by the spies who were set on his death? To this courageous stalwart, such action would have given place to the enemy and robbed God of glory. The record of Scripture is clear that it was Daniel’s faith that stopped the mouths of the lions (Dan 6:23; Heb 11:33). What a sterling example Daniel is to bolster the faith of God’s people who may be feeling the opposition of Satan through lion-like men. He clearly never knew the meaning of retreat from trial.
Daniel spent the night with hungry lions without injury. When King Darius arrived in the morning to check on him and to secure his release, Daniel was quick to give God the glory for sending his angel to protect him. Was the Divine protector in fact the pre-incarnate Christ? Possibly. Like the Psalmist before him, Daniel’s testimony could well be “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4, NKJV).
God’s tender care is seen towards this one who walked uprightly and confided in his love and power. By the time Daniel was an old man, he had instructed kings and caused them to see and confess that the Most High rules in the kingdoms of men. He had outlived these rulers and escaped their damning edicts. His conspirators had lost their lives, while God had caused Daniel to prosper. “Who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good” (1Peter 3:13). “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psa 55:22).
In highlighting the personal qualities of Daniel in old age, it should be noted that these did not magically appear when he was old. They were continually cultivated throughout his life. What Daniel was in his youth before Nebuchadnezzar, he was in old age before Darius. He was trustworthy in his employment, distinct in his heritage, consistent in his relationship with God, courageous in threatening circumstances, and clear in his conscience. His faith was unwavering in the face of death and he was always ready to give glory to God. He stayed the course and personally reaped God’s blessing, leaving a wonderful example for us to follow. We’re never too young to emulate this godly man, nor too old to want to be like him.