Dare to be a Daniel

Daniel 1:8 - But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.

Read all of Daniel 1.

The battle of Carchemish in 605 BC is well known to students of ancient history. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Pharaoh Neco of Egypt and began to take more and more control of the Near East. It wasn't long before Nebuchadnezzar made his first attack against Jerusalem. Although the ancient city of Jerusalem was not destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar until approximately 18 years later, it was the beginning of the end for the kingdom of Judah.

Long gone were the days of glory under David and Solomon. Many of the Jewish prophets had warned the people with the message from God that these sorrowful days would come if they would not return to worshipping the Lord. But the people of God would not turn back from their idolatry and immorality; they continued in their evil ways. So the Lord sent His people into captivity that they might learn the hard way. Although God is patient and loving, He must always be true to His word!

With the initial attack, Nebuchadnezzar carried off a portion of the treasures of the temple and took some choice male captives with him to Babylon. By taking some of the nobility as hostages, Nebuchadnezzar could control the rest of the royal family who remained as puppet rulers in Jerusalem. Thus the kingdom of Judah, which could have had the continued blessing of God, came under the control of pagan Babylon. (See Daniel 1:1-3)

The story of Daniel takes place during these dark days of captivity. It comes as a welcome light in the darkness. It is the thrilling account of how a few faithful individuals were blessed and honored by God in the midst of a situation which appeared hopeless. The story of Daniel contains some powerful lessons for Christians today--especially for the growing Christian who is faced with the temptation to compromise in his faith.

Daniel was one of four college age, or perhaps high school age, captives who decided to remain faithful to God in this foreign situation, no matter what the cost. These four guys were a minority group for sure! The rest of the captives apparently could not withstand the pressure and submitted to the commands of Nebuchadnezzar.

The fact that the majority of the captives compromised in their faith and conformed to the way of Babylon is not altogether surprising. Many Christians do the same thing today when they find themselves in non-Christian environments. Consider, for example, the Christian teenager who leaves his home situation, where he was safe and secure in a beautiful circle of Christian friends and fellowship, and arrives in the "big city" or on the secular college campus. There will be a tendency for that Christian to hide or tube his faith. The temptation to compromise and conform is very great. Almost unconsciously he will begin to justify his compromise.

The majority of the captives probably reasoned that it was foolish to put their lives on the line when they were so far away from home and up against such overwhelming odds. Why not lie low and conform to the Babylonian way of life? When in Babylon do as the Babylonians do! After all, Nebuchadnezzar had saved their lives and was even giving them a three year scholarship to the University of Babylon (v5). He had hand-picked them and was training them for future diplomatic service. When they graduated they would be bilingual and bicultural and would probably be sent on foreign missions for the king--maybe even back to the homeland. How exciting!

Why ruin such a future by verbalizing their faith? Why risk their lives when a little compromise would eliminate so many problems and so much emotional stress? The least they could do would be to conform to the commands of the king and eat his choice food and drink. If they were silent now, maybe they could get a word in for God later--after they had established a reputation for being good students and decent people, etc., etc.! A little compromise now might even be a "subtle" way of reaching the Babylonians when the time was right. Why force things and be so outspoken about their faith?

And then they may have felt that God didn't care anyway. After all, weren't they down here in Babylon because God had given up on them? Why try to make amends once you've blown it with God? Maybe the best thing to do now would be to "put it in neutral and coast". Maybe after graduation things would change and it would be easier and safer and more logical to go back to the "faith of the fathers". Yes, the majority reasoned this way--they usually do! With "common sense" they rationalized themselves right out of the will of God (See Daniel 1:4-7).

"But Daniel [notice the contrast] made up his mind that he would not defile himself..." (v8). Daniel knew from the Word of God that to eat at the king's "training table" was wrong. Not only were certain of those foods expressly forbidden to the Jews by the Scriptures, but also the king's food was probably dedicated to heathen idols. Eating and drinking the king's choice food would have involved Daniel in defiling pagan religious practices. Daniel would not compromise and disobey the Word of God. He knew that God does not "water down His Word" because of uncomfortable or tough or "sticky" situations. God is pleased when we dare to be Daniels.

In verses 9-16 we see Daniel boldly taking his stand. He did not give up when it looked like his first approach had failed (v10). This was no "sign from heaven" that he could go ahead and compromise and join the crowd. The very fact that his request was shelved--but not denied--encouraged Daniel to try a different and more tactful approach (vs11-14). Daniel persevered in his determination to find a way to obey the Lord in this seemingly impossible situation, and the way was opened up. (See Luke 11:9-10) We also see in these verses that God was working behind the scenes on behalf of these faithful individuals. "God granted Daniel favor..." (v9). "God gave them knowledge..." (v17). God is always working behind the scenes for those who are determined to be faithful to Him--even when He doesn't appear on center stage.

Now it should be pointed out that Daniel's refusal to compromise or conform to the "way of Babylon" did not mean that he divorced himself completely from the new culture into which God had brought him. He accepted the new Babylonian name that was given to him (v7). He changed his language and lifestyle somewhat. (He even wrote part of the book of Daniel in Aramaic, which was the Babylonian language.) He did not become a drop-out at the University of Babylon, but studied hard, and with the Lord's help he graduated summa cum laude (vs17-20).

But Daniel did not compromise in matters of the faith. Although he adjusted and accommodated himself to his new environment, he did not conform to Babylon. Babylon's goals did not become Daniel's goals. Babylon's glories did not become Daniel's glories. Babylon's gods did not become Daniel's gods. Daniel did not disobey the Word of God. He did not compromise in his faith. He did not conform to this world. Daniel dared to stand faithful.

Daniel's stand was no doubt costly. Imagine the comments of the other captives--even old buddies from home. "What's Daniel trying to prove anyhow?" "He's going to get us all killed!" "Here comes Deacon Daniel!" "Quit trying to play God, Daniel!" And imagine having to eat vegetables and water for three years (vs15-16)--not too exciting! No, it wasn't easy, but Daniel made up his mind that he was going to be faithful to the Lord.

Daniel set the example and three others followed--only 3! A pitiful minority, but God blessed and honored these faithful few. We don't read any more about the compromising captives but we do read more of the faithful few. Read on in Daniel and see how God promoted these men and used them for His glory. We learn from verse 21 that Daniel outlived the Babylonian empire itself. (Cyrus was a king of the Persian empire.) Notice how the Scripture seems to emphasize that Danielcontinued--he continued to stand faithful to the Lord.

Right now many of you are facing a situation similar to Daniel's. You've just started college or moved to a new town or started a new job. You're in a different environment--maybe even a different culture. Everything's changed. No one seems to talk about the Lord. Christians are definitely in the minority. "Home" is so far away. The pressure to conform to the new group is so great. It is so easy to compromise "just a little" in the faith. What should you do? Dare to be a Daniel! Yes, it will be hard and costly and gutsy and very lonely at times. You will be laughed at by some, mocked by others, and ignored by many. The temptation to quit or lie low or crawl into your shell will be very strong. Don't yield. Struggle to be faithful!

Of course there will be changes. Any new situation brings adjustments. Some of you are coming from "sheltered" environments. Your horizons will be broadened. Daniel's certainly were. Your lifestyle will change some. God expects you to relate to the culture in which He places you. But God expects you to remain faithful to Him--in your social life, in your sex life, in your spoken life.

Don't disobey the Word of God. Don't conform to this world's goals and glories and gods. (See Romans 12:2) Don't compromise! Be faithful and God will bless you and honor you and use you for His glory. Dare to be a Daniel!
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