The Life Project: Daniel
Israel was facing a time of death and destruction. Babylon had moved in and destroyed
all that was sacred to God’s people. Babylon had robbed Israel of its greatest treasure;
the young, passionate, vibrant minds of an up and coming generation. The lights had
gone out in Israel. Her capital city had been trampled, her palace destroyed and her
most Holy Temple desecrated. It was a dark time, something reminiscent of the
doomsday scenes from movies like The Terminator or War of The Worlds. The colorful,
vibrant culture of pageantry and worship has been replaced by a thick, grey fog. The
streets of Jerusalem that were once filled with song had become deathly silent. In a
world that was without hope and without faith, the story of Daniel is a breath of fresh air.
Daniel was only a teenager when he was taken captive from his homeland and brought
as a servant to Babylon. He was intelligent, good looking, and in great shape. Daniel
1:4a says the court official was to bring the king,
"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."
Daniel was chosen for this prestigious position. What an opportunity! It was going to be
an easier life than that of an ordinary slave. He was to serve in the king’s court. It was a
place of power and influence. It was an opportunity that most would have sold their soul.
And like with many great opportunities, selling his soul is exactly what was being asked
of Daniel. He was being asked to fit in. He was being groomed to become, for all intents
and purposes, a Babylonian. Verse 4b says,
"He was to be taught the language and
literature of the Babylonians. 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."
Daniel was in a difficult, stressful situation that was going to test his faith and principles
at a fundamental level. The Israelite was to change into a Babylonian. A God fearing
young man was being asked to compromise everything he believed in the name of
power and success. What the King required and what God required stood at opposite
ends of the room. Have you ever stood in that spot; the tug of war between our comfort
and success pulling against our faith and integrity? How would Daniel respond to this
One way to deal with the call to compromise our beliefs is to surrender. He could have
sold out. With his gifts and talents he could have gone with the flow and easily justified it
by saying, “there was no other option, after all I am a slave...”. Most times this is the
path of least resistance. Simply give in and console ourselves with the notion that at
least we lived to fight another day.
Another way Daniel could have handled the call to compromise was to be deceptive.
He could have kept the court officials and the king in the dark and honor God in secret.
No one would have been the wiser; just do what you want in keeping with God’s law but
pretend to be obedient. Daniel could have kept quiet and hoped that no one would
notice. This is a win/win situation right? I won’t sin against God and I won’t have to take
a stand and become the example of what happens to detractors.
How did Daniel handle it? He handled it with integrity. In verse 8 it says,
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."
In a world full of compromise and
justifications Daniel made the tough call, he decided to take a stand for what he
believed in no matter what the cost. Daniel refused to allow circumstances to change
who he was. Now that is the stuff heroes are made of!
As if this stand of integrity wasn’t enough Daniel then followed this request with a
guarantee! Talk about faith! He told the palace official “test what I say and see if I’m
right.” Check out Verse 12 and 13,
"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."
Daniel went in with confidence because he knew the Lord would
honor his request if he honored the Lord.
"So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days"
Now the rubber was to meet the road. The Israelite had stepped out in faith and put
everything on the line. Would God be faithful or was Daniel going to fall flat on his face?
10 days passed and guess what happened? Daniel looked better and had responded
better than anyone else in the entire kingdom. It is an amazing testament to Daniel.
Right? Wrong! It is not about Daniel but about God. Verse 17 says,
knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could
understand visions and dreams of all kinds."
God had showed up in a radical way!
So what do we take out of this introductory story in Daniel? We can have the assurance
that even in the toughest of times and the hardest of circumstances, God is faithful! The
question for me is, am I? Am I willing to take a stand for what I believe in even when it
may cost me dearly? Am I strong enough to challenge status quo and put God on
display for the world around me to see? Will I allow my life to be used by God even if it
is easier to shrink back and hide? I pray I will be ready to respond with courage and
integrity when these challenges arise. I believe that just like in Daniel’s world, we live in
a time that is in desperate need of heroes. Our world needs men and women of faith
who will stand in the face of brokenness and let God shine through our lives, ourchoices, and our faith in Him!