Daniel Chapter 1: The Dedication Of The Boys
Before entering upon a consideration of the contents of this book, it is needful to call attention, however briefly, to its special and peculiar character. At the very commencement, mention is made of the fact that Nebuchadnezzar had already besieged Jerusalem, and that the Lord had given Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into Nebuchadnezzar's hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God, etc.; and thereon we read that some of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes, were captives in Babylon. These facts, when rightly understood, open out to us the significance of the whole book. Until now God's throne had been at Jerusalem; He dwelt between the cherubim; and Israel (we speak of the nation according to the purpose of God) was consequently the centre of God's ways in the government of the whole earth (see Deut. 32vv7-9). Israel, as this same scripture tells us, occupied a special position of favour and blessing, "for the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance." Because of their position of blessing and privilege the nation had special responsibilities. This principle is announced by the prophet: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities (Amos 3v2). Their responsibility was according to their light, and because they were Jehovah's people; for as such they were His witnesses (Isaiah 43vv8-13), and Jerusalem was His candlestick in the midst of the nations. When, therefore, Israel became worse than even the surrounding nations, and the king of Judah made the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen (2 Chronicles 33v9), the Lord, after many warnings and much long-suffering (2 Chronicles 36vv14-20), executed the judgment which He had threatened, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, who "burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon" (2 Chronicles 36vv19-20). The dominion of the earth was henceforward committed to the king of Babylon (see Daniel 2vv37-38), and it is in the midst of this new order of things, as a true remnant and seed preserved of God, that Daniel and his companions are found in the first chapter of our prophecy.
This position of the remnant in Babylon, subject to the Gentile power and dominion, affords the key for the interpretation of the book. For the visions, vouchsafed to the kings, concern the Gentile powers themselves, in their successive order, development, and, what may be termed their moral phases, going on to complete apostasy; and those granted to the prophet deal with the same subject, but, as going down to the end, in the accomplishment of God's purposes concerning His beloved people, more in their bearing upon this issue. The "pleasant land" finally becomes the centre round which all the Gentile activities and designs gather; and the curtain is lifted to reveal the future of the chosen nation, in its pathway, because of its sins and iniquities, and most of all because of its crowning sin in the rejection of Messiah, through unequalled and unheard of sorrow and trouble (Daniel 12v1) on to the enjoyment of its purposed blessing according to the thoughts of God. All this will be more distinctly seen as we pursue our studies; but it may now be pointed out that the book is divided into two equal parts — Daniel 1-6 forming the first, and Daniel 7-12 the second part. The first part is wholly made up of the visions and actions of the Gentile monarchs and their subordinate authorities. Daniel and his companions appear on the scene as having the mind of God, and as faithful to Him amid all the seduction and opposition by which they were surrounded. Daniel, like Joseph in Egypt, is first brought to the notice of the king as an interpreter of dreams; and also, like Joseph, he is, as a consequence, taken into favour, and exalted to the seat of government. Having obtained from the king the association of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, with himself in his exaltation, they become the objects of the envy and enmity of the princes. The details will be found in their place; but the two things are interwoven, the character of the Gentile powers, and the suffering condition of the remnant and their final deliverance from under the Gentile persecuting dominion. The second part of the book, commencing with Daniel 7, contains the prophetic visions, with their interpretations, received by Daniel; and they embrace the course, character, and destiny of the Gentile empires, which followed the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Their various actions are described, especially those of the third and fourth, in relation to the Holy Land and the Jewish people; and we have, moreover, the special revelation made to Daniel of the seventy weeks, as indicative of the period in which God's purposes for His earthly people will be accomplished.
Finally, in the long vista of the future opened up to the prophet, the Gentile governments are displaced by the Son of man to whom there is given "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom, that which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7v14). It is in connection with His coming to establish His kingdom that Daniel is told: "At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12v1). At His first coming He was cut off (Daniel 9v 26), and had nothing; but though He was rejected and crucified by "His own" people, He yet, according to the counsels of God, died for that nation; and it is on the foundation of that efficacious sacrifice that God, after He has, in His righteous government, punished them for their sins, will act in the future for the restoration of His beloved, but guilty, people. Isaiah can thus cry, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins" (Isaiah 40vv1-2). The book of Daniel reaches in prophetic vision to this point; but it does not go beyond. For the establishment and the glory of the kingdom, other prophets must be consulted. What we have in Daniel is, as we have already indicated, the course and character of Gentile powers, from the destruction of Jerusalem on to the appearing of Christ, together with the position of the remnant, and the sufferings of the Jewish people, while the Gentiles possess the dominion, until at last God, in His faithfulness in pursuance of His purposes, interposes, and, for His own glory, works for the rescue and blessing of His elect earthly people. This blessed consummation is yet future, and though our calling and portion are heavenly, and our hope is the coming of the Lord to receive us unto Himself, and to introduce us into the Father's house, it is yet of the utmost importance that we should understand the nature of "the times of the Gentiles," and embrace in our thoughts the whole circle of God's revealed interests. It is to aid in this object that we desire to commend to our readers the earnest study of this part of the inspired volume.
Firstly, let me say I believe there is an “Authenticity about the Book.” Now; I am all too well aware that many look into this book of Daniel, which for centuries has gripped the thinking, and imagination of all kinds of scholars and those not so scholarly. Some look into the book of Daniel with a simple curiosity that they may in turn make fun of those who would take it so much more seriously, others will look into this book with a silly causality and could care less what the real teaching means believing that some how or other everything will work out some way, yet others will constantly be looking into this book with a severely critical mind in order to prove wrong any and all who would disagree with them. Please, let me remind you, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3vv16-17). Therefore, thankfully, some look into this book sincerely caring; they have an ever-deepening desire to search the Scriptures daily, devotionally, determinedly and dispensationally in order to acquire for themselves the truth which God has revealed and to which we who are Christ’s own ones are called to discover for ourselves; the wonder of the teaching of this wonderful book called the Bible. Paul’s voice rings down the ages reminding us as he reminded Timothy, “Study to show thy self approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2v15). But however, others look into this book called Daniel, its good for us to discover for ourselves the authenticity of it. It truly is an amazing fact; the book of Daniel is one of the main targets against which biblical critics in every generation and from every kind of theological background openly attack in order to prove their alleged hypostasis, if any book in the Bible has a weakness then surely Daniel is that book, you can almost hear them whoop and holler with glee. But wait a minute, not quite so fast we must protest. Was it not the Lord Jesus, as already quoted in the introduction who said, “When ye therefore see that the abomination of desolation, spoken by Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24v15). The critics may come at this book from every angle and cry, phoney, forgery, false, but Jesus gives authenticity to it by quoting from it. In the nineteenth century the “higher critics,” or should we call them the destructive critics, believed they had found the Bible’s weakest link, the book of Daniel, they set sail as they thought under a strong wind believing if they could make the Bible fall here the rest of it would collapse like a house of cards. It’s interesting, they did not try to make up any new arguments of their own, they simply resurrected an argument from an old infidel named Porphyry, who had many times, centuries ago attacked the book of Daniel. There are no new arguments against the integrity of the Bible, yet, the critics say, “The book of Daniel is fictitious, it’s an historical romance, no man called Daniel ever lived.” Or, “The book of Daniel was not written when its claimed it was, it was written many years after the events occurred and recorded by someone trying to make a name for themselves. Now, why would people make such amazing claims, why especially would so called “higher critics” men of great learning and understanding have to stoop to such claims to win a point, can they not simply, if what they are saying is true, make their point from the rest of Scripture and win the day, must they go down the road of duplicity and deceit? I’ll tell you why they have to go down that road! The book of Daniel is true and it is God through Daniel looking down the ages and predicting things that will surely come to pass and these critics believe such prediction is impossible. Don’t they know “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10v27b) Oh, how the critics love to deny the supernatural in the Bible. Whenever they find something supernatural, that is, anything that defies scientific explanation, they sadistically cry untrue, we don’t believe it, how can this be true. When we open the book we call the Bible, one thing we need to understand, we are opening the book that bares the signature of the God who created the universe, who spoke and it happened and let me say emphatically, the God who created this world is supernatural and can do supernatural things. We need to realize folks, liberals continually question and query this book and especially the book of Daniel because it’s a prophecy, and prophecy is history written ahead of time, it’s God predicting what is coming in the future. How very sad to think such clever and intellectual minds can be so befuddled about such wonderful truth. Remember the wonderful words of Jesus, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, you might believe” (John 14v29). The critics say Daniel is a forgery, Jesus says Daniel is prophecy and we surely will stand with the words of Jesus giving authenticity to the man called Daniel and his writings any day over those who constantly think they can tell the almighty God what He can and cannot do. Jesus said there was a Daniel and that Daniel was a prophet who came speaking only what God instructed him. For me that settles it!
Secondly, let me remind you, there is ”Suitability about the Name.” Today of course there may not be the same importance attached to a name when bringing a child into the world, very often a name is given simply to placate the family, or to continue a tradition but most certainly when we look at the names given to Hebrew children in biblical times; every one of those names had a very special meaning. How very wonderfully correct the Psalmist was when he declared, “Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 145v5). It is therefore no mistake that this young man was named Daniel meaning, “God is my Judge.” It is true to say Nebuchadnezzar did change his name to Belteshazzar meaning ‘Bel protect his life’ or ‘Prince of Bel’ but evidently the new name did not stick because on almost every occasion we read of his exploits, it’s the name Daniel that even his enemies use. Here is a young man, although in the heart-land of the enemy, is a young man who knows with deep sincerity that everything he does, everywhere he goes, every word he speaks, every thought he thinks is all under the inscrutable judgement of God and to Him and Him alone is he responsible to give account, and you know what? He lived daily in the light of that great truth. Living for God before God was more important to him than living before men for God but because he lived for God before God in such a manner, his testimony before men was inscrutable, however hard they tried they could not find a fault with this young man of God.
Thirdly, allow me to remind you of “The Certainty of the Time.” This is Johoiakim, king of Judah’s reign, he has been spoken to again and again by God as to his wicked ways but absolutely refused to hear God’s word to him, in his heart he has that rebel attitude and refuses to obey God. I guess the best insight we have of this is from Jeremiah “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; of which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not harkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever; and go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover, I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jeremiah 25v1-11). This and other passages such as 2 Kings 24vv1-2, 2 Chronicles 36vv5-7 and Jeremiah 52vv12-30 confirm the time factors for us. All agree, as do ancient history books that this was a true account of the captivity of Israel by Babylon. I mention that fact simply to display that this event is well documented and may be verified even by secular documents.
Fourthly, let me emphasize “The Sincerity of the Lad” Now, let me unpack this one just a little beyond what I have said about any of the other heads. The date was the 31st October 1517; the place was Wittenberg in Germany, the man, Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a monk who had gradually become more and more discouraged and weighed down by his own sin and by the abuses of the church in sixteenth century Germany. But through his study of the Bible he had come to see that doing good deeds and performing religious rituals as he’d been taught, as a monk, could never earn salvation. Rather salvation was a free gift given by God to those who repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus. He was becoming more and more appalled that the church in Germany and indeed throughout Europe was failing to teach people the gospel and instead enslaving them to a religion of works and ritual. Finally his patience broke. He resolved to make a stand. And on that day in October 1517, he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, 95 statements that showed the world what was wrong with the church of his day. Four years later, Luther was asked to stand before the Emperor himself and deny what he'd written and had been preaching. Luther said this: 'I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. May God help me.' It was in many ways a small stand but one, which was to have huge effect. Now, in many ways the book of Daniel is about taking a stand. It is about living for God in a pagan world, knowing that God is the true King. Although this book was written 2,500 years ago, yet we'll see that it actually couldn't be more relevant to our situation here in our community.
Now I don't know how much you know about the book of Daniel, but I think we often make two mistakes with this book. The first mistake is to think that this is a book for children. There are exciting stories of Daniel and the lion’s den, and the men trapped in the fiery furnace. There is the story of the writing on the wall and the strange dreams, which Daniel interprets, therefore we tend to relegate the book to fictional stories, which are there to teach the Sunday school, and of course they are. But they are not only good stories to teach our children, Daniel is a book set firmly in human history and actually written for adults. It's written for people like you and me struggling to live as Christians in an often-hostile environment.
But there is a second mistake we often make, and that is we assume that the book is about super saints. It's about the heroes of the faith, and quite frankly when we read the stories we feel there is no way in the world we could ever aspire to such standards. But such an understanding is actually a mistake. Yes, Daniel and his friends were courageous and faithful, but they were just ordinary men who trusted in an extraordinary God. And actually in chapter 1, when they took their first stand, they were no more than teenagers yet; by their living for God, before God, qualifies them as mighty men of faith. So if you're in throws of despair and discouragement and finding life difficult and you feel under amazing pressure and stress, then listen carefully. This is about teenagers, the same age as some of you today and doing what you so desperately want to do and do well, taking a stand for God.
A third mistake we sometimes make, we imagine these events described in Daniel as taking place over a one week period, we tend to think that on Monday Daniel and his friends refused to eat the king's food, on Tuesday they were put in the fiery furnace, on Wednesday they interpreted the writing on the wall and on Thursday they were fed to the lions. But it wasn't like that. Daniel could easily have been in his seventies when he had his encounter with the lions. These things didn't happen on a day-to-day basis, in fact the events recorded in the book of Daniel probably took place over seven decades or more, and as we'll see, unless they had taken that first testing stand in chapter one, then they would never have survived the bigger tests of faith later in their lives. No, they were ordinary people, serving an extraordinary God, who strengthened them to do extraordinary things! You see, Daniel teaches us that it is not so much about how much faith you have; it's where you place that faith that matters. You may feel the weakest and most useless Christian in the church, and yet God can still use you. Don't let anyone leave off reading this today thinking they have to be a super saint in the annals of Christian history. Rather it's about faithfully serving the same awesome God that Daniel served and putting our trust in him as did Daniel. It's only in seeing that He is the true King that we will have courage to live for God in a pagan world. So think with me not only about Daniel but also about these other three teenagers as they enter the University of Babylon as young students, and let’s endeavour to learn some lessons: In the first place; recognize where you live; and I don't mean Glenwood Avenue or the like; I mean recognize the fact that we live in spiritual Babylon, for the Jews of Daniel's day they were living in literal Babylon. “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim, king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god” “Daniel Ch.1vv1-2). Now what we are reading here is a description of the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews in about 604 BC. Babylon was the super power of the day, and the Babylonians had slowly worked their way across the known world and taken nations in their sway, and for Israel, it was the grimmest event in her history. Much of the population was killed, many starved to death during the siege, even eating their own children to survive; it was horrific. In the end, the land, the city of Jerusalem and even the Temple, God's holy place, were completely destroyed, and the people carted off into exile. I don't think we can really understand what a horrific experience this was. Imagine your home being destroyed, your family put to death, your country ruined, her historical monuments pulled down and in rubble, and then you yourself carted off to a foreign land where you don't understand the language, where you are in an alien culture, and where you can't worship your God. Everything that could be different is different. That's what Daniel experienced in 604BC but strange as it may seem, that wasn't the worst of it. The worst thing of all was that it seemed God had been defeated; Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, carrying off the Temple articles, the precious artefacts of God, and placing them in his god’s temple symbolized a major defeat. It looked as if God was defeated and the Babylonian gods were supreme. You could almost hear the Babylonians cry out, one nil to Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon! The God of the Jews was dead! Won’t they learn a costly lesson?
Now, we should understand this situation of exile; being in a strange land is precisely the way the New Testament describes the Christian life style of today. You see the fact is that we are in an alien land, our real home is heaven, this world is not our home we are simply passing through, we are citizens of heaven making our way through this waste howling wilderness of a world. For the time being we are in exile, away from our true home, and it's therefore no surprise to find that the world in which we live and our country seems very alien. Yes, Northern Ireland may have a good Christian heritage, but sadly much of the good foundation is no longer with us, it is slowly being eroded away day after day, every new movement that comes our way we seem to hang on to it believing, this is surely it, we have arrived, revival in a big way is here. Also, we live in a society where the values and ideals are alien to the Christian.
Let me give you four ideals, which sum up the mood of the day. Secularism, saying that the latest is the greatest, and God must have no place in our lives. Pluralism, saying that religious variety is the spice of life. Relativism, saying no truth is the truth, but that all truths are valid. And woe betides if you declare your truth is the truth. Finally Materialism, that this world is all there is, so make the most of it and get what you can out of it. That is the modern day thinking, we are in a spiritual dark Babylon, and we live in an alien culture, speaking an alien language and living alien lives, like the Jews of Daniel's day it's tempting to think that God has left us, that He's been defeated.
One writer called Harry Balmier who was a student of C. S. Lewis' puts it like this, writing at the end of the 20th century: 'There is no doubt that as the 21st century approaches, the Christian community faces formidable hostility, not least in the developed Western countries once regarded as the bulwarks of Christian civilization. Looking around us, we Christians cannot but be aware of how powerful and insidious is the assault on the faith we hold, the faith we have assumed to be the foundation of Western culture. Current secularist humanism, a mishmash of relativistic notions negating traditional values and absolutes infects the intellectual air we breathe. There is a campaign to undermine all human acknowledgement of God, the campaign managers have a powerful hold on every area of the media, so much so the masses are being brainwashed as they read the press, listen to the radio or watch television. 'Daniel and his friends lived in literal Babylon, a culture utterly opposed to God and his ways. We live in a very dark spiritual Babylon, a culture utterly opposed to God and his ways. And the sooner we realize it, then the better. Recognize where you live. In the second place we must resolve to make a stand; and that is what Daniel and his friends did in Babylon. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel Ch.1v8).
Fifthly, Look at the diabolical act of the king; Daniel certainly had a different idea than King Nebuchadnezzar had in mind. You see the king had a cunning plan when he took over a country, he would not just subdue it, he would also take its young future leaders away to Babylon and Babylonise them! The cream would be skimmed off and brainwashed, they were the brainiest, and the best looking, they were from the royal household, and they had it all going for them. The plan was to get them to forget their past and see the wonders of the new regime. The king would get Babylonian ways into them and so change their hearts and minds; think Babylonian, act Babylonian that was the university's motto. And for these young Jews, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, it must have been quite an eye-opener.
They were given an all expenses paid scholarship to study at the biggest and best university in the world, the University of Babylon. On their beds as they arrived, no doubt there was the very impressive welcome pack. It would read: 'we at the University of Babylon pride ourselves on our ancient heritage and modern teaching facilities. We desire that our young men be the best in the world in arts, literature, language and culture. You'll be fed on the choicest food, given opportunities you never dreamt of, and best of all have a highly paid job in the Babylonian Foreign Office for life. You can also enjoy the most exhilarating hobbies like furnace building and lion taming, all at the personal pleasure of the king himself.' You couldn't have failed to be impressed. But it was actually a plan to crush Babylon's enemies, the sophisticated way. Notice how they did it.
There was first isolation, “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes” (Daniel 2v3). These men were taken from their homeland and brought to Babylon. They would not see their friends, family or homeland again.
There was indoctrination, “Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1v4). Day after day, week after week, Daniel and his friends went to lectures to be taught all things Babylonian. They probably didn't say Judaism was wrong, but they just taught their own curriculum. And no doubt after a while, you'd be left thinking that the Babylonian way was best.
There was indulgence too “And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king” (Daniel 1v5). No Kentucky Fried Chicken here for these young men, rather the king's venison, caviar, the finest of foods all the way, only the best for the cream of the crop.
And then finally there was the identity change. “Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (Daniel 1v7). No longer were their names reminiscent of the God of Israel, for all their names had something to do with Yahweh. No, now they were given Babylonian names, which reflected the Babylonian gods. The brainwashing was complete.
Now it's worth us pausing here to reflect on how each of those four things can happen to us living in spiritual Babylon. Let’s just take one of the things mentioned; it's very easy for instance for Christians to become isolated. You might be the only Christian in your workplace or on your course or in your class. That's why church activities, home groups, student groups, personal quiet times are so vital. It's certainly true that we are constantly receiving secular indoctrination through the media, through others' moral standards, and through the constant whittling away of Christian standards in our land. It's true that virtually all advertising is telling us to indulge ourselves in our materialistic culture's dining table, to take our share and dine out while the going is good. And it's true to say that our identity as Christians is in danger of being eroded as we become more Babylonian than Christian. For each of us there is a serious danger of spiritual Babylonian brainwashing, so that we are not only in the world, but of it too.
Sixthly, Look at Daniel's Faithful Stand, this truly is resolve indeed. It could have been the same for Daniel and his friends, had they not resolved to take a stand. And this was not some whim of Daniel’s as he and his mates were chatting in the campus cafeteria one day. No, they resolved to do it. The Hebrew word has overtones of serious thought and prayerful determination. But of course the big question is why the food? Why not the lectures? Daniel and his friends could have boycotted the lectures and refused to have been taught. Why not resist the isolation. They could have campaigned outside the palace with placards saying 'Release the Jerusalem Four'. Why not the names? They could have made a point on all these things. But they didn't. It was the food. There's certainly been no end of suggestions- perhaps obedience to Jewish food laws, perhaps because the food was sacrificed to idols, perhaps because Daniel didn't want to be seen to have fellowship with the king at his table. But all have flaws. I think actually the real reason why they chose not to accept the food was because it was there that they decided to draw the line. It may not have been a big issue. But it was here that they resolved to make their stand. There's a hint that Daniel felt that to eat the food might defile him. Maybe he did feel that eating with the king was a sort of tacit statement saying that the king was his lord. But we don't actually know. What we do know is that they decided to make a stand on that issue. The king might try all he could to make them Babylonian, but at the end of the day, Daniel knew where his true allegiance lay, to the king of kings Yahweh. I guess he would have received some flak from other Jews, come on Daniel, and don’t rock the boat, just eat the food and run. When in Rome and all that! But Daniel would not be shaken, he resolved to take a stand, and it wasn't without cost too. He could easily have been killed for it. Notice in verse 10 that the first official didn't want anything to do with it, this was a treasonable offence, but it was a stand in need of taking. It was as if he was saying: ‘Look you can remove me from my home, you can teach me all you like, you can even change my name, but you cannot change my heart. And to show it I’m drawing the line here. I will not eat the king's food. My allegiance is to God. Here I stand. I can do no other.’
And what a vital lesson that is for us today. Because the point is that making a stand for Christ, however small, shows where our true allegiance lies. And if we make a stand on a small issue, we are far more likely to stand on a bigger issue. You see we might be tempted to think: ‘Oh yes, if ever there was persecution in Northern Ireland, I'd die for Jesus. I'd go to prison for Jesus,’ we say. Well would you? If you're not willing to make a stand for Jesus now in a small thing, then what hope is there of you making a stand for him later? If you're ashamed of him now, then you'll almost certainly be ashamed of him later. Or maybe we say: ‘Well it's just not worth it. It would be much easier if I just got on with things. If something big comes up, then of course I'll make a fuss.’ But the danger is that we have become so Babylonian that we are no longer able to make the stand we should. We might say, ‘Yes but I'm being salt and light in the world. I don't have to make a stand to show my allegiance to Christ. I'll just infiltrate the system and show it by my life.’ But unless you do stand up and be counted, then the salt can so easily become tasteless and the light snuffed out. Let me ask you, when was the last time you said no to something that would compromise you? When was the last time you did stand up and be counted for Christ's sake? It may be something small, but the point is, unless you stand on the small things, you'll never stand on the big issues. I doubt very much that Daniel would have survived in Babylon for 50 years as a follower of Yahweh if he'd simply said: ‘I’m going to go undercover for Jesus. I’ll take a stand when the real trouble comes.’ No, he’d be just another Jew who after 70 years of exile could no longer be distinguished from his Babylonian mates around him. Let me give a few examples of people who have taken stands on small things and shown their willingness to put Christ first. It’s not that we should do the same necessarily, but these show how some Christians have decided to act. One girl, for instance, working in an office decided that the way she would stand for Christ would be not to play the office lotto every week. When asked why, she said she was a Christian and didn't believe in gambling. It was her way of standing up for Christ. You may not agree, but at least she had the courage to do something and show her allegiance. A few months ago, an email went round my friend’s office asking for contributions to a Christmas card. The only problem was the rules. ‘The card cannot express any religious opinion and belief as we cannot offend other faiths.’ So a number of Christians had the courage to email back and say that the idea was offensive to Christians since Christmas is about Christ. And the idea was dropped. Again you may disagree, but at least they had the courage to do something. Small stands reveal your allegiance in Babylon. Or take another example; I have a friend who played cricket for one of the teams in his city, the only problem was that, with the team came the usual social necessities, heavy drinking, sleeping around and a generally indulgent lifestyle. My friend resolved to make a stand on drink and sex; he drew some lines in the sand and made some things off limit for himself. Sure, he received a lot of flak and was the butt of many jokes, but he took a stand because he knew his Lord and would not bow to peer pressure, rather he stood up for Jesus Christ. And we could multiply the examples. Maybe you'll need this term to say that you won't be going to a particular club on the weekends because you know it'll tempt you. You might decide to speak out against the constant foul language in your office once this week. Now you might think all these things are small. But ask yourself. When was the last time you took a stand for Christ's sake? Is your allegiance to Christ obvious to others, in the office, in the school, in your college, in your home? It may be a small stand. But you've laid your cards on the table. You're a citizen of heaven first and foremost, a follower of the King of kings. Yes, Recognize where you live, Resolve to take a stand. In the third place, Remember who’s in control and that becomes clear in the rest of the chapter, “Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1v9). Very surprising, didn't you think; why a few moments ago we were beginning to think God was out of the picture, we were almost to the point of believing God was defeated by the gods of Babylon. But no, here we discover that God is alive and well in Babylon, he's very clearly at work in the officials hearts and minds all the while making them friendly towards Daniel. And so when Daniel makes his stand they are willing to let him do it, despite what Nebuchadnezzar had said. Daniel and his friends are allowed a ten-day trial period when they go on the first no fat diet in history, vegetables and water for them, what was the result? What was the outcome? “And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat” (Daniel 1v15). It's not a mandate for Christian vegetarianism; rather its God's way of saying to Daniel, ‘See Daniel, I honoured your stand.’ You see beloved, God is in charge even in Babylon, but that's not the end. “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus” (Daniel 1v17-21). When the decree is over, the exams have been sat, the papers marked, and the oral exam before the king himself is over, what do we discover? The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. 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. And this is no fluke. It wasn't just a question of the questions they revised for the up and coming examination. No, we read, God gave them knowledge and understanding, once again it was God working behind the scenes. And that is the central message of Daniel. God is in control. He is the Lord of history. Did you notice whom it was that brought about the exile in verse 2? ‘The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into Babylon's hand.’ God used Babylon as his punishment for Judah's persistent rebellion, God is still on the throne, and God is still the true King. And folks, we need to understand that even Babylon will one day fall. We get a hint in the final verse of the chapter verse 21 ‘And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. Who is Cyrus? The King of Persia, the new superpower who in 539BC would overthrow the Babylonians. No human power lasts forever, God would one day overthrow the Babylonian empire. He would one day bring his people back to Judah. God is the real King in charge. And that is the key truth we need to remember which will spur us to take a stand. God is in charge. He's the real King. It was a tough decision Daniel had to face. Who am I really serving? God or Babylon? And his answer was God. It's not that we will always be rescued in the way Daniel and his friends were, God may bring things to a happy conclusion if we take a stand, Daniel was promoted. But God doesn't promise that, in fact before Daniel has finished his book, he'll warn of severe suffering for Christians who take a stand, but what enables us to take that stand is the truth that God is in control. And one day he will right all the wrongs, one-day spiritual Babylon, this world with all its pain and injustice will be held to account, and the New Jerusalem will be established. We'll be in heaven our true home forever, and we can be sure because we've seen God bring about the victory in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. In Jesus, God defeated death and sin and paved the way for the final triumph, yes, God is alive and well, our God reigns, He's the one who's in complete charge. The big question is, will we trust him or will we succumb to the lies and deceit of the world, the flesh and the devil? We need to remember who's in charge. Martin Luther had no idea that his stand for God's truth would lead to what we call the Reformation. He took his stand because he believed it needed to be taken. He served the true and living God the real King of the world. Will you do the same? Will I? Will we together make a difference? Recognize where you live, Resolve to take a stand and Remember who's in charge.