Week of October 18, 2015
Bible Verses: Daniel 1:3-5; 8-20.
The Point: Live your life with uncompromising conviction.
Staying Dependent upon God: Daniel 1:3-5, 8-20.
 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility,  youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.  The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.
 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.  And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,  and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”  Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,  “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”  So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.  At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.  As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.  At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.  And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.  And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. [ESV]
This passage can be a challenge to understand. Our immediate response to the text might be to question Israel’s exile. Reason tells us that Israel’s exile is problematic since they were God’s special people of the covenant. If in fact they are God’s special people then how is it that God would allow them to be exiled under a pagan king? The answer is found in Leviticus 26:14-46 (rf. Deut.4:27; 28:64). In short obedience was required under the covenant of works. The law was to be kept to receive covenant blessings but transgressions warranted covenant curses. In this case Israel’s disobedience called them to fall to the Babylonians. This passage is a fulfillment of prophecy found in 2 Kings 20. Lacking in faithfulness to God king Hezekiah attempted to establish political ties with the Babylonians in order to protect Israel from the Assyrians. This act of unity with pagan kings severed the covenant between God and Israel. Daniel along with others were called upon to be educated in literature and language so that he could help assimilate the people of Israel into Babylonian culture.
Notice that it wasn’t the education that defiled Daniel but the diet. Daniel was probably keeping to the dietary laws of Israel and did not want to partake in Nebuchadnezzars table for fear of partaking of meat that had been sacrificed to pagan deities or things unclean. As a result God honored that and as for Daniel and his friends “God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”
When you think of this passage and Daniel you can’t deny a certain respect for him and his friends for having the conviction of keeping the dietary laws and not being defiled. But, it is an over simplification to look at this passage and say “be like Daniel.” If that were the case we would all be defiled since we today are a culture of assimilators. The point behind the law was to teach us that our inability and point us to a Savior who didn’t abolish the law but fulfilled it and passed the righteousness that He earned on to us as a free gift.
However, having said all of this we must ask ourselves the question “what do we do when we receive a free gift?” We respond in gratitude and we show our gratitude with obedience. There are a number of things in our culture that trap us and defile us. Our response should always be to have CONVICTION and abstain not because of laws that Jesus had already fulfilled for us, but because of our gratitude to Him for what He has done and thus we too will find favor with God and be blessed.