Daniel 1:3-21 (Part 1) – Compromise or Confront or The Daniel Way

Posted: May 20, 2016 in Book of Daniel

Daniel 1:3-21 (Part 1)

Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s Court

If you have read my blogs over the past few years, you may have read before that my brother and I had a tumultuous relationship growing up. My brother and I were both smart kids but my brother was and is, I think, a few steps ahead of me on the intellectual scale. What came naturally to him, I had the aptitude and understanding of the same concepts but I just had to work harder than him at to make the same grades. In school, where I was a 5 A’s and 1 B kind of student, he was a straight A student. However, my brother was, at best, socially awkward. He was one of those smart kids that had to let you know how smart he was. On the other hand, I was more of a chameleon. I was socially skilled such that I could adapt to the crowd I was in. As part of a Methodist preacher’s family that moved every couple of years, it was a skill that served me well. Being the new kid in town in the small communities that we seemed to end up in with each move was a difficult task. Kids at school are rough on the new kid especially in small towns. I was socially able to figure out the kid politics of the grade I was in at school and adapt and excel socially. My brother was not as fortunate to have those social skills. Though he has matured greatly over the years, as a boy and as a teenager, he was very abrasive and even arrogant with his intellectual skills. Though not bad as the Sheldon Cooper character on Big Bang Theory, he had that superiority complex and it did not endear him to the locals. He was not the easiest brother to have growing up. He was capable of being just as abrasive and arrogant to me as he was to others outside our home. He did not endear himself to me either. In fact, we really did not like each other very much. It was not until after we both left home for college and our adult lives that we began to repair our relationship. Though we are not as close as most siblings often seem to be, we are light years better together now than we were as kids. He was abrasive to me. I would make fun of him. I would throw him under the bus when I was with my friends. It was the joining in with the crowd to make fun of my brother that would get me in trouble with my dad – a loving but tough, tough man as a father. To my dad, family was everything. He used those famous lines, “when you have nothing else, you have family.”

 

Because of the animosity between my brother and myself, like I said, I would join in with the other kids to make fun of my geeky, eidetic memory, smarter than everyone else brother. He was mean and hostile toward me at home and would often belittle my intelligence so I was always more than willing to throw him under the bus socially. Like I said, I was a chameleon and gave the crowd what they wanted so that I could win their approval. Approval of the crowd gave me my value and my brother was an easy target for derision because of his caustic personality when he was younger. Every time, though, that I would belittle or betray my brother publicly, regardless of how mean he was to me at home, my dad would come down hard on me for publicly trouncing my brother. He would remind me that when we had nothing else we had family. He would remind me that these kids I was so eager to please would be gone out of our lives in a year, two, or some short time further when we moved to the next town but that you will always have your brother. He would remind me that blood matters (i.e., family matters) more than popularity. And, yes, all these years later, my brother is still my brother and, those people I was friends with in school in those early years, I struggle to remember their names at this point. Standing up for family was big to my dad and he was right. No matter what you may think of your siblings and no matter what happens within your home, outside the home, you defend family no matter what. Family stays with you. Friends come and go.

 

It is that concept of assimilation vs. standing on principle that I see in today’s passage in Daniel 1:3-21. Let’s read what it says:

 

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[a] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

 

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[b] 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.”

 

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 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.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

 

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

 

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

 

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

 

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

Daniel and his friends were determined to be devoted to principles and to be committed to a course of action. When Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself and compromise his principles and give into the pressures around him. It would have been easier just to assimilate into Babylonian culture and go along. It would have been easier to forget his biblical principles and embrace the culture around him. It would have been easier to through his principles under the bus and join in the courtier lifestyle. However, he held true to God’s Word and his obedience toward it. But, yet, he was not rebellious about it. He would to find a solution that allowed him to maintain his principles but yet allow him to function within the culture in which he found himself. Man, could we as Christians today learn something from Daniel?

 

We have today it seems two ways of dealing with the culture around us – forgetting our principles or confrontation. We need to learn the Daniel way.

 

One way we may choose to deal with the world around us is to assimilate into so that the world cannot tell the difference between us and them. We compromise our principles just to fit in. We too are often assaulted by the pressures to conform to today’s anything goes world in which we live. We may often talk about doing God’s will but we through our convictions under the bus when confronted with the culture in which we live. We would rather participate in the flow rather than fight against it. We don’t want to be singled out. We would rather not object to things that are against God’s nature than to point it out to those we hang with or to the culture in general. The fact that we have weak backbones, generally, as Christians is part of the problem with the ever-degrading moral landscape in which we find ourselves in the 21st century. Things that have become acceptable in the 21st century are due in part to the fact that we Christians are afraid of standing out in the crowd. As long as our paycheck clears the bank, we are happy. Principles don’t really matter when I have got to pay for my 2,000 sq. ft. house, my brand new SUV, and my pool in the backyard. We go along just so we can preserve the easy life that we have. We, as Christians, are often like me when I was a kid joining in with the crowd to make fun of my brother. I knew it was wrong but it was easier just to join in that stand up for my brother. It was easier to join in because standing up for my brother was hard.

 

Another way we react today as Christians is that we go “all Westboro Baptist” on people. What I mean by that is that we condemn the world for what it has become. Just look on Facebook and you will see Christians bashing the world around us. We have great disdain for the world around us as we sit in our ivory Facebook towers and condemn the world below. We sit behind fences and talk about how the world used to be and how the world out there is gone to hell. We withdraw into our shell of church friends and insulate ourselves from contact with that world out there. We condemn. We create an air of superiority about ourselves and write off the world around us.

 

Daniel takes a different approach. He does not join in that which is defiling to a child of God, but yet, he worked within the culture for a solution in a way that benefited all. That is the charge to us as Christians today. We must begin to stand against the tide of moral degradation that we see in our world today. We need to be vocal and participatory in the political arena with the same unity and steadfastness of those that have turned their back on God. We can no longer afford our “as long as it doesn’t affect my paycheck” Christianity. We must be Christians who have biblical values and express those values in everyday life, in every area, including the willingness to run for elected office. We must be willing to stand up for what we believe. However, as Daniel teaches us, we must do so in constructive ways. We must do so in ways that engage the culture. We must educate the culture. We must be a voice that people listen to. Condemnation does not draw a crowd. We must work to find solutions that engage people with the gospel not beat them over the head with it. Bullying never brought anyone to the cross. Engaging someone where they are at and teaching them about the love of God and how we honor him through our obedience is how we win people to the cross.

 

May we begin to learn the Daniel way today, you and I. Amen and Amen.

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