Somehow stories in the Bible get ripped from their contexts. The stories in Daniel are especially susceptible to this error.
The fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, and the handwriting on the wall become stories hanging by their own thread instead of divinely ordained events woven into the fabric of God’s sovereign plan.
In Ezekiel we read time and again this declaration: then they will know I am the Lord.
The stories in Daniel are meant to elaborate on this theme. The young men of Judah are in exile, in service to King Nebuchadnezzar, the very instrument of God’s discipline. But God is bent on displaying the glory of his name to all peoples, not just his people.
God reveals his plans and purposes in history to Nebuchadnezzar through dreams and visions in Daniel 2. This is grace! But the king uses this gracious revelation to exalt himself.
He sentences Daniel’s three friends to death in chapter 3, but God again displays his grace and power in front of Nebuchadnezzar by saving them. Nebuchadnezzar witnesses a miracle and acknowledges God.
Again Nebuchadnezzar dreams and Daniel interprets in chapter 4. Another act of grace from God to reveal himself to this pagan king. God desires to make himself known to all. But again the king exalts himself and incurs the punishment of God. In the end Nebuchadnezzar repents and is restored. He acknowledges God as the Sovereign King of all Kings and then his story ends.
Lately all the reading has been about judgment on God’s people but here in Daniel you realize that God is just as much at work in Babylon revealing himself to those in power. He truly desires for his name to be known in all the earth.