Not many, I imagine, spend time thinking about their ‘legacy’. It’s a word we associate with people who make decisions or take action that leaves a lasting impact on many others. My day-to-day seems far removed from that grand kind of scope: my legacy perhaps will be the wear-and-tear on my office chair.
Great figures of the past
In Ezekiel 14 God mentions three men whom he clearly holds in very high regard. Noah, Job, and the subject of this series, Daniel. God is making the point, repeating it over and over again, that “even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in [Jerusalem], they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezek. 14:14, NIV)
the exiles in Babylon must have recognised that Daniel was a man of exceptional faith and behaviour; there must have been very little in his life to distract from his godliness. …we now look at him as a shining example of a life well lived
We know Noah was a herald of righteousness in a corrupt world (2 Pet 2:5), and Job was a man renowned for his blameless and upright behaviour (Job 1:1) who encouraged and strengthened many around him (Job 4:3-4). These are men singled out by God for their righteousness (Gen 6:9; 7:1; Job 1:8) and here in Ezekiel 14 it is again their righteousness that is emphasised.
So when God mentions Daniel in their company it is kind of a big deal. God is trying to make a point here about the extremity of his anger towards Jerusalem. When you use this kind of argument, you choose another extreme to show that Extreme B can’t match up to Extreme A. To emphasise how extreme the sin of those in Jerusalem was, God chose these three extremely righteous men who stood out in scenarios of godlessness to compare it with.
‘Greatness’ in many small things
Ezekiel was writing to the exiled Jews in Babylon at the same time Daniel was active in the administration of the various empires that rose and fell during his time there. God has chosen two figures from ages long past in Noah and Job, who, even to the Exiles of the early 6th Century BC, would be of legendary status – and sandwiched between them he places the Exiles’ own Daniel. It says something about the standing Daniel had in the minds of his own people at the time that God chose him to make this point.
Jesus said “No prophet is acceptable in his hometown” (Luke 4:24) when Nazareth dismissed him as a carpenter’s son. We tend to undervalue what we know as familiar in comparison to the figures for whom history has carefully buffed out the dents and rough edges, but the exiles in Babylon must have recognised that Daniel was a man of exceptional faith and behaviour; there must have been very little in his life to distract from his godliness. Certainly, as this series has illuminated for us, we now look at him as a shining example of a life well lived, not only when in favour but in adversity too.
Yet for all the remarkable events of his life, his righteousness is ultimately a simple formula of: prayer; contemplating God’s Word; turning away from evil; trusting in God. These are all things we can do, and God graciously calls most of us to do them in simple, small ways each day rather than when sitting in lions’ dens. 99% of the time, Daniel was doing it in simple, small ways too. He held his righteousness throughout the extraordinary moments in his life, because keeping up the small things every day meant that prayer, contemplating God’s Word, shunning evil and exercising absolute faith were his instinct, even in the most trying circumstances. They can be ours too, by steady practice, and even if we never need to face down lions, God will be no less pleased with our quiet legacy of a simple, every-day life of righteous faith.
Richard Hutchinson, The Church of God in Vancouver