When you read the first chapter of Daniel, you quickly realize that while Babylon had already conquered their country, the king wanted to conquer the minds of Daniel and his friends.
Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to be Babylonians in heart and spirit, body and soul. He wanted them alienated from the Lord, and utterly immersed in Babylonian ideals, assimilating the culture’s whole way of life and values, forgetting all their past. All the threads tying them to the past had to be broken. Their life back in Israel and the values of God’s people, which they had brought to Babylon were dismantled one by one. What they laughed about, and what they would lay down their lives for would henceforth be Babylonian. They would dress in Babylon, and speak as they speak in Babylon, and behave as they behave in Babylon, and even eat what they eat in Babylon. As the Borg on Star Trek often said, “Resistance is futile.…you will be assimilated.”
The assimilation included even their diets. It was at this issue of the food that Daniel drew a line. Some people would think food is not something to take a stand on. Verse 4 says “He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.” No protest from Daniel. Verse 7 says, “The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.” No objection from Daniel here either. But when Daniel was put on a new diet (v.8) he resolved not to conform.
Christians are going to meet many things at work or school or in our neighborhoods which we will not agree with. But it will get very old and very ineffective if we protest every single thing we disagree with. Not every issue is a “resolve” or a “no surrender” issue is it ? We need to pray to God for wisdom to know the issues over which they are going to take a stand. The probable reasons for Daniel’s sensitivity to defilement are that the food may be “unclean” by the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 11) or the food served at Nebuchadnezzar’s table may have been associated with the worship of heathen gods, similar to the problem described in 1 Corinthians 8-10.
We can learn a lot from this passage about how to solve problems. When the world wants us to do wrong too often we simply just give up and do it or flaunt it. Instead, we can try to think of a proposal that will work out to all side’s satisfaction. We can try to stand firmly on the word of God without offending others. Sure, this will not “work” every time. Daniel wasn’t pigheaded or surly. He wasn’t arrogant. He didn’t make any demands. He simply asked permission not to eat, and he did so graciously. Daniel went to see the proper man. He took his courage into his hands and as a teenage boy he asked if they might be excused from partaking in the appointed food.
The chief official’s initial response was that it would cost him his life. In verse 10 we read, “but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
But Daniel wouldn’t be put off. Daniel then said to the guard, whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” The man thought, “Well, there’s no harm in that. They are going to be here three years. I can give them ten days.” “All right,” he says. It was just as easy as that.
Daniel was willing to test his faith by taking this stand. The value of his faith is seen in the results. First, as we read in Daniel 1:15-16, it affected the lives of others. In verses 17-20, we read that God blessed Daniel and his three friends even more. God gave them knowledge, skill, and wisdom, and to Daniel He gave understanding in visions and dreams. They became the best of the young men who had been trained, and served in the presence of Nebuchadnezzar. The king found them better than all his magicians and astrologers. Daniel continued in the court of Babylon for nearly seventy years. Even to the first year of Cyrus of Persia, eventually becoming provincial ruler and chief administrator over all others (Daniel 2:48)
1. When have you taken a Christian stand in a non-Christian setting?
2. If you were Daniel, what resource would you have appreciated the most? (The helpful official, his three friends, God’s sustaining power, Jewish dietary laws, knowledge and understanding from God)
3. What do you feel when you stand up for something you believe in (confidence, power, peace, elation, fear, freedom)?
4. What often keeps you from taking a stand (lack of confidence, apathy, ignorance, time, fear, possible bad consequences)?
5. What is your greatest resource for taking a stand (God’s power, family support, financial resources, others who share the same interest, prayers of your small group, encouragement from Scripture, other)?