Daniel: Living Holy In An Unholy World
The purpose of the book of Daniel is to teach the truth that “even though the people of God are in bondage to a heathen nation, God Himself is the sovereign and ultimate Disposer of the destinies both of individuals and of nations” (Edward J. Young, “Daniel”; New Bible Commentary, Revised; p. 688). Despite persecution in a foreign land, God’s people would be rewarded and protected if they remained faithful to Him.
▸ The Remnant
God had warned Judah of the need to repent of their gross idolatry and immorality or else face the same fate as the ten tribes of the Kingdom of Judah. These warnings came from such prophets as Isaiah, Micah, Habakkuk, and even Jeremiah. When the Babylonians came, the first time they took back with them young men from among the royalty of Judah. Daniel and his three friends were some of the first Jews to be carried away into Babylonian captivity. Isaiah had promised that “the king’s descendants” would become eunuchs in Babylon (Isa. 39:7).
As a young prince of Judah, Daniel, was carried away to Babylon in 606 BC. This date marks the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s forty-five year reign as well as the beginning of the empire. Daniel was also the witness of Babylon’s fall in 536 BC. and went on to prosper into the third year of Cyrus. He would have been between the ages of thirteen and seventeen when carried to Babylon. Thus, he lived through the seventy years of Babylonian Captivity of the Jews and to the beginning of the Medo-Persian Empire, from 606 BC to 534 BC, in all, a total of at least seventy-two years.
▸ The Refinement
The Babylonian court chose the best of the royal men from their many conquests to serve the before the King’s court. First, all these young men had to go through a three year training program. Only the brightest and best were to be enrolled. We learn that Daniel and his three friends were healthy, intelligent and handsome. The program was to transform them into Babylonians. They were given Babylonian names. They were taught the Babylonian language. They were given a Babylonian education in literature, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, philosophy, etc. Furthermore they were to be fed a diet prescribed by the king to make them as heathy as possible.
▸ The Request
Having to learn a new language, receive new names, and have a secular education were not a problem for the four Jews from Judah. The problem came with the new diet. The king’s food and drink was unacceptable for these faithful servants of God. The Law of Moses prohibited the eating of unclean animals such as pigs. It also required the blood to be properly drained so that one did not eat the blood (Lev. 17:10-14). There was also the possibility that the king’s wine was fermented and they would refuse to look upon or drink the wine which sparkled in the cup (Prov. 29:23f). The final problem could have been the serving of food that had been offered up to idols. For whatever reason(s) “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Dan. 1:8).
▸ The Reluctance
Daniel had already made an impression upon Ashpenaz who is called “chief of the eunuchs.” He did not want to change Daniel’s diet because it might result in his failure to measure up to the king’s standards. This would not only put Daniel’s future position in the court as risk but endanger Ashpenaz’s head.
▸ The Recommendation
As a young captive in Babylon, Daniel quickly distinguished himself by refusing to defile himself by eating the King’s food. He suggested an alternate diet for ten days. “And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies” (Dan. 1:15).
▸ The Results
Through this diet and their hard work at training Daniel and his three friends were better able to show them the superiority of God’s wisdom. At the end of the ten day trial, Daniel and his friends were healthier than the rest.
▸ The Reward
These four young Jewish men did what was right in the eyes of God and trusted Him with the results. God rewarded them for their faith. “God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom.” In addition to this God gave Daniel “understanding in all visions and dreams” (Dan. 1:17).
When the king tested them at the end of three years he found them to be the best of the best. They were allowed to serve in Nebuchnezzar’s royal court.
Application: How to Live Holy in an Unholy World
Be Resolute of Heart
The key to Daniel being able to live faithfully as a Jew in the heathen court was his absolute unwillingness to compromise his principles. This did not start the moment a plate of bacon was placed in front of him. Daniel had already “purposed in his heart not to defile himself” He had previously made up his mind to do right. A successful godly life begins with a resolution of the heart. Ezra is another such example. “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
Although as servants of God today we do not have to follow diet of clean animals from which to eat, Daniel’s commitment is to encourage us to keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:20). The Bible makes it clear that all foods are permissible to believers (Col. 2:16; Rom. 14:17). “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Young Christians today must purpose in their hearts not to defile themselves with the movies, games, language, dancing, immodest clothing, etc. of this world.
Beware of What You Eat
Christians should be careful to some extent what they eat and where they eat it. The church is not a glorified restaurant. Jesus did not die on the cross so we might have “fellowship” meals in the church kitchen. Christians should avoid getting drunk or even wine tasting. A Christian “no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:2,3).
Be Transformed, Not Conformed
Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1–2).
The Babylonians were trying to press Daniel and his three friends into their mold to make them conform to a Babylonian image. They could have made many excuses. “When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians” Or “we are not in Judah, we are far from home and the Temple, is it realistic to expect us to keep all these kosher laws?” “It is not like I have completely given up on God. We are just having a couple of pieces of bacon.” They could trivialized the importance of keeping these small and insignificant commandments of God. Each believer is either a conformer or a transformer.
Be Friendly & At Peace
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Rom. 12:18 niv). Daniel had respect for Aspenaz. He was not willing to neglect his duties to God to please men (Gal. 1:10). Daniel would have compassion even on the magicians when he prayed “do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation” (Dan. 2:24b). They respected those in authority. They did not burn down the palace or the Babylonian flag, they did not neglect their studies, lead a protest, loot or assault others
Throughout this book Daniel is portrayed as one who was wise and understanding. He was also a man of prayer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
– Daniel R. Vess