GETTING THE MESSAGE/Let Christ be the commanding power
In Daniel chapter one, we are looking at the familiar story of the faithfulness of Daniel and his three friends to the Lord though they were captives in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. They were young men, in their middle teen years.
They were among those selected to receive the best education, three years of learning the language and literature of the Chaldean culture (verse 4). This education was indoctrination. They would be taught about the gods of Babylon, the science of charting the stars, dream interpretation, magic, omens, occultism, and many other things. It’s important to note that there were shrines to gods everywhere in Babylon. So the faith of the young Hebrew men in the Lord would be tested.
The goal of the education was not only indoctrination, but assimilation. The boys were all given new names. Their Hebrew names meant loyalty to the Lord; their new names meant service to gods of Babylon. This added to the pressure to conform, as did the fact they were to be treated very well and given the best food, the same food and wine that King Nebuchadnezzar ate and drank (verse 5).
Daniel resolved not to eat of the King’s food, and he represented the other young men in requesting that the chief over them allow them to eat only vegetables and drink only water (verse 8). That Daniel was resolved meant that he wasn’t going to eat the King’s food even if his request was denied. That would mean certain death.
So the natural question we ask is, “Why was Daniel resolved?” Many think the food would have included foods the Israelites were forbidden to eat. Others think the food and wine would have been offered to idols and so it would defile them to partake of it. Whatever the reason, Daniel and the others believed that eating and drinking from the king’s table would compromise their covenant commitment to the Lord God.
The Lord requires that His people choose Him over this world and life in it. It is a blessed requirement, because true life is in God alone. But fidelity to the Lord means we must count the cost of following Him. The Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil, who offered Jesus the whole world if He would worship the devil. So Jesus reasoned with men thus: “What good does it do a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
The Lord knows we need grace to resist temptation. Grace means favor, and from God it means divine favor, divine influence. Divine grace enables us to see the evil of sin and the glory of God. Grace from God gives clarity to choose the wise path. God will provide this to you if you ask Him for it. Daniel was a man of prayer. No doubt he beseeched the throne of heaven for strength and wisdom, faced with such a challenge and temptation to his allegiance to God. Therefore, pray and ask.
The Lord tells us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He says that when you seek me with your whole heart, then you will find me. These are great promises. You can trust the Lord. Neither men nor the world can save you from sin and death. If you make the Lord your portion now, at the end of your journey, there is no fear. Daniel ended up being a great help to many. Faithfulness to the Lord will never be in vain. So be encouraged by this passage.
In verses 9-16, we learn that the Lord gave favor to Daniel in the eyes of the chief over the food. The chief was worried about the appearance of the young men on a different diet, but after a period of testing, Daniel and his companions had a radiant, healthy appearance. So the Lord was with them.
The Lord was also with them in their education after that. When they were brought before the King, their understanding and wisdom was found to be ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in the kingdom (verse 20). The Lord was with them. He honored their faithfulness. It’s true many Christians suffer and die who are very faithful. But the Lord is with them in that too.
The last verse in the chapter sends that message: “Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.” Daniel outlasted King Nebuchadnezzar. God’s people will outlast the kings and devils of this world. Let Christ be the commanding power in your heart and life.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.