Daniel 1:1-21; 1 Peter 3:8-22; Psalms 119:49-58; Proverbs 25:23-24
OT: “In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. The Lord handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the land of Babylon, to the house of his god, and put the vessels in the treasury of his god. The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility — young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. Among them, from the Judahites, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief eunuch gave them names; he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah. Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief eunuch not to defile himself. “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and deal with your servants based on what you see.” At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. So the guard continued to remove their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables. God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind. The king interviewed them, and among all of them, no one was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they began to attend the king. In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and mediums in his entire kingdom. Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.” (Daniel 1:1-4, 6-8, 12-13, 15-17, 19-21 CSB)
The book of Daniel follows the life and records the prophecies of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in the late sixth century B.C. Over the course of twenty-plus years, captives were taken into exile as slaves, along with treasures from Jerusalem’s royal palace and temple. Daniel, along with Hanahiah, Mishael and Azariah, were taken captive early in that process because of their noble status in Judah. Most likely, the four young men were castrated in order to serve the King of Babylon as eunuchs.
Years ago, my pastor presented a sermon series on the book of Daniel entitled, “Living in Babylon without Babylon living in you.” When Daniel and his four comrades arrived in Babylon, they were trained in the language, literature and culture of the Chaldeans and offered the best delicacies of the land. It would have been very tempting and very easy for Daniel to fully assimilate into the Chaldean culture and forsake his Jewish identity and convictions, but that is not what he did. Instead of conforming to the Babylonian culture, he chose to remain consecrated unto God. Though he learned the language and ways of the culture and lived in Babylon for the rest of his life, he didn’t allow Babylon to live in him, and because of that, he and his comrades stood out from the rest of the exiles and the rest of the Babylonians as well.
One of the first tests that Daniel faced was with food. The pagan Babylonians did not have the same dietary restrictions as the Jews. Would Daniel and his comrades compromise with the culture and begin enjoying the Babylonian delicacies from the King’s table, or would they remain consecrated to the Lord’s word and sacrifice convenience and comfort for their convictions. They chose the latter – and because they remained consecrated despite pressures from the Chaldean culture, the Lord was with them, graced them, caused them to stand out, and gave them favor.
NT: “Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing. For the one who wants to love life and to see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and let him turn away from evil and do what is good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil. Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:8-16 CSB)
In essence, Peter was challenging the believers of Asia Minor to “live in Babylon without allowing Babylon to live in them.” Peter was challenging them to remain consecrated and committed to the Lord… to not react to things the way that the people of the culture react, but to be loving, compassionate, humble – returning evil and insult with blessing. Will there be people that envy and revile us and cause us to suffer, even though God’s favor is on us and our conduct is good? Yes. Hanahiah, Mishael and Azariah were thrown into a fiery furnace for their consecrated commitment to the Lord. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for his uncompromising commitment to the Lord. However, in the midst of their suffering, they were blessed and God was glorified all the more. Don’t compromise and give in to the culture. Don’t behave the way ungodly people behave. Don’t let the ways of the world defile your life. In your hearts, regard Christ the Lord as holy. Seek peace and pursue it. Be ever ready to give a defense for your hope… and if you are disparaged, allow your good conduct put those who disparage you to shame.
Psalms: “Remember your word to your servant; you have given me hope through it. This is my comfort in my affliction: Your promise has given me life. The arrogant constantly ridicule me, but I do not turn away from your instruction. Lord, I remember your judgments from long ago and find comfort. Fury seizes me because of the wicked who reject your instruction. Your statutes are the theme of my song during my earthly life. Lord, I remember your name in the night, and I obey your instruction. This is my practice: I obey your precepts.” (Psalms 119:49-56 CSB)
Our comfort in the midst of affliction is the word of God. When we are committed to the word, will and ways of God, we will find comfort – even in the midst of trials and tribulations. Daniel knew that. In the midst of being carried away to a foreign land and then castrated with no hope of a future posterity, Daniel found comfort and eternal hope in the word, will and ways of God. When the psalmist was ridiculed for His love and zeal for God’s word, he did not run away in fear. He held steadfastly to God’s word and obeyed His instruction. He made it his practice to obey the Lord’s precepts – and in doing that, he found hope, comfort and life. No matter how hard Babylon presses on you to conform, remain consecrated and committed to the Lord and you will find the same.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your word, will and ways that bring life, peace, comfort and blessing. You have called me to live in the world, but not be of the world. You have called me to be holy as You are holy and to remain consecrated and set apart for You. I thank You that as I hold fast to and obey Your word, will and ways, You will grace me and empower me to be light in the darkness and salt on the earth. May your grace, blessing and favor rest on me as I hold fast and follow You in faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.