Rebels with a God
This lesson is designed to help us live for another world in this world
Daniel 1:1-5 - Captivity, Dietary Oddities, and Other Fear Factors
Notice the phrase in vs. 2, “the Lord handed”… Does this mean that the Lord would actually turn His children over to corrupt and pagan rulers? Yes.
It wasn’t as if He didn’t warn them about the price of their sins of false worship, disobedience, and lack of true devotion to Him. This handing over is a fulfillment of a promise and warning He had spoken many times:
Jeremiah 25:6 – 11 says, Do not follow other gods to serve them and to worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger by the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm. But you would not obey Me – this is the Lord’s declaration – in order that you might provoke Me to anger by the work of your hands and bring disaster on yourselves. Therefore, this is what the Lord of Hosts says, Because you have not obeyed My words, I am going to send for all the families of the north- this is the Lord’s declaration – and send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will bring them against this land, against its residents, and against all these surrounding nations, and I will completely destroy them and make them a desolation, a derision, and ruins forever. I will eliminate the sound of joy and gladness from them – the voice of the bridegroom and the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole land will become a desolate ruin, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years.
2 Kings 22 - Huldah, the prophetess said, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, behold I will bring calamity in this place and on its inhabitants … because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore, my wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.
But as for the King who sent you, you shall say…thus says the Lord, because your heart was tender and you have humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard what I spoke against this place….you tore your clothes and wept before me…I have also heard you.
She went on to say that this calamity would not happen while Josiah was king.
You can also find it in 2 Kings 20.
It’s now happening in today’s lesson.
The invasion of Judah in 605 B.C by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
When Nebuchadnezzar defeated Judah, he took the best of what valuables remained in the temple, and led captives to Babylon. Babylon is now Iraq.
One strategy for maintaining control of the empire involved incorporating children of royalty from a conquered nation into the ruling culture.
Daniel and other Judean young men were selected for a special three-year training course with the aim of eventually bringing them into King Nebuchadnezzar's service. For this they needed to learn the language, culture, and customs of Babylon. As part of this select group, they were wined and dined with culinary delights.
Note the qualifications for selection into this group:
(1) Royalty or nobility. The Israelites were to be of royal birth, of high standing. Nebuchadnezzar did not value the fact that the royal family from Judah had a spiritual legacy as well as a political one.
(2) young men. The Hebrew term translated young men covers the years below 20. Daniel was probably born during the reign of King Josiah which would make him between 14 - 17 at the time of his deportation. Daniel's friends likely were in their teens as well.
(3) without any physical defect. They were to be good-looking and likely also to be popular with and well favored by their people.
In today’s terms, they would probably be voted "most likely to succeed."
(4) suitable for instruction. The king wanted teachable candidates who could learn the wisdom of Babylon.
(5) Knowledgeable and perceptive. They were to demonstrate education and an ability to understand the demands of their new culture.
(6) capable of serving in the king's palace. Those who served the elite of the palace needed poise—an inner strength that could not be intimidated.
Nebuchadnezzar expected those who enjoyed his provisions to pay him back in service.
For the young Hebrews, the provisions included food and wine from the king's table. The Babylonians may have had good intentions in providing the royal food and drink to the trainees. They had little or no knowledge of the dietary provisions of the Mosaic law. They would be unaware of conflicts with the thinking and values of persons of faith.
Let’s see what Daniel does when he is confronted with going against his beliefs.
Daniel 1:8-15 - Determine to Obey God
Among the youth chosen from Judah's noble families were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Their assimilation (working them into society) included instruction in the Babylonian language and literature, and name changes. The new names incorporated the names of Babylonian gods (the remainder of the chapter suggests the four youth continued to call each other by their Hebrew names). Their Hebrew names has the prefix el or al meaning Yahweh, the Lord.
Being trained in the literature of Babylon included learning oracles, interpreting terrestrial and celestial phenomena, and interpreting dreams.
However, when challenged to compromise faith, Daniel resisted. He determined he would not defile himself with the king's food or wine. The Hebrew word translated “defile” refers to something soiled, stained, polluted. Daniel knew God’s grace had cleansed him from sins and had separated him from the world’s pollution. The Mosaic food laws were the symbols of this inner cleansing.
To change dietary regulations meant to change allegiance from God to the earthly king under whom Daniel lived. Food and drink triggered his resistance to culture.
It’s interesting that this was a private issue, not a public one. Later, when they stood before Nebuchadnezzar and were pronounced best in the group, the king had no idea the four young men had rejected his food and wine.
So why did Daniel and his three friends draw the line at the point of food? We do not know for sure. It could be because he was not going to eat food that had been offered to idols or food that was not prepared according to Mosaic law. (Lev. 11)
A clue is in verse 8 though—Daniel determined to not defile himself.
The word translated determined means "to fix, to establish, or to put in a place."
Daniel displayed maturity and wisdom beyond his years in the way he approached the problem. Instead of overt rebellion and refusal to accept the king's plan, Daniel asked permission (a sign of respect for authority) from the chief official.
God granted Daniel favor and compassion from this official. Yet this official still feared the king's wrath. His life would be in danger if the Judeans appeared malnourished.
God can turn the hearts of those who are not believers to aid His people as they trust Him and follow Him.
Daniel did not provoke a fight or put himself or his friends in danger. Determined to follow the Lord, Daniel found an appropriate way to confront the society that conflicted with his faith.
He offered an alternative with a win-win situation, one that dealt with the official's personal concern and Daniel's as well.
He asked the chief official's guard to substitute vegetables - The Hebrew word means "that which grows from sown seed." So could include fruits, grains, and bread made from grains, as well as vegetables, and water for the king's wine and food for 10 days.
After which the guard could determine if his fears were justified. The result of the trial period showed that the four Hebrews looked better and healthier than all those who ate the king's food. So the guard replaced the "food and the wine" with vegetables and water. This small but significant victory for Daniel and his friends demonstrated that even in this foreign and dangerous place, God was still with them. He blessed their faith and obedience physically and spiritually.
When God's people reject certain aspects of becoming like society, they often can do so privately and without fanfare. They simply make a personal commitment and live according to God's standards no matter what. THE RESULTS WILL SHOW. SOMETIMES THOUGH, WE HAVE TO TAKE A PUBLIC STAND AS WE WILL SEE LATER.
ο "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself."
· NOT defiling oneself is a good guideline for helping us to know where to draw the line:
o IT’S important to decide not to allow oneself to be defiled before being confronted with a temptation.
o When you’ve pre-determined that you are not gonna go there, it’s easier to say no when faced with that temptation
· Purpose in your heart (ahead of time) to not defile yourself!
· "Determination is a key characteristic of those who desire to impact the culture rather than be impacted by it."
Daniel 1:17-21 - A God-Shaped Lifestyle Works
God gave Daniel and his friends great success in gaining knowledge and understanding. Their brilliance was not merely the result of Babylonian schooling, but rather it was a gift from God. Later chapters show that they used this wisdom for His glory.
God also gave Daniel a special ability for understanding visions and dreams, which later became central in his ascendancy within the Babylonian hierarchy. The four Hebrews were superior in every matter of wisdom and understanding. They not only excelled in formal studies of language and literature, but they developed in the wise use of knowledge and its application.
At the end of the years of training, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar, a crucial test both for the Hebrews and their trainers. Even King Nebuchadnezzar was impressed as he interviewed them and found no one to be their equal. They were 10 times better than all the diviner-priests and mediums in his entire kingdom. "advisors and magicians" (CEV); "magicians and conjurers" (NASB); "magicians and astrologers" (KJV); "fortuneteller or magician" (TEV)
God did not merely give them satisfactory abilities, He also gave them exceptional standing.
Although they did not embrace all of the values of their new culture, they were able to render valuable service to it.
People of true faith can render valuable service to society even though we do not embrace all of its values and standards. People of true faith recognize that whatever gifts we have are from God and we are to use them in ways that honor Him.
(BOTH PRIVATELY AND PUBLICLY)
How far we should go in conforming to our culture is often difficult to determine. We must ask God for wisdom. We must ask Him to help us live for another world in this world.
Romans says, do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Keep your mind on God and the things of God, the plan of God, the will of God….
Spend much time in prayer
As we will learn Daniel prayed often, so did Jesus…so should we
First Samuel 2:30 reminds us: "I will honor those who honor Me, but those who despise Me will be disgraced."
Daniel 1:19 - The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered the king's service.
Can the same be said of us?