How to Live in Babylon
This is the official start to the book of Daniel which is the greatest collection of predictive prophecy in the history of the human race. That’s right. I said that. The greatest collection of predicted prophecy in the history of the human race. New Testament prophecy refers to Daniel more than any Old Testament book, this is why it’s called the backbone of biblical prophecy. It is the key to prophetic revelation. Daniel contains more fulfilled prophecies than any other book in the Bible (Archer, EBC, Daniel). In fact, if Daniel’s prophecies were really written by a guy named Daniel, in the 500’s BC, then there is only one rational conclusion, and that would be to drop to the floor and bow before the one, true, living God who is sovereign over history. That’s how powerful the little book of Daniel is.
It’s for that reason that Daniel has come under attack from skeptics more than any other book in the Bible. And if you think about it, what else could they possibly do with the hundreds of incredible prophecies in the book of Daniel?
- Option A: Admit that God is real, and that God foretold the future to Daniel in 500 BC.
- Option B: God isn’t real, but some really smart humans from 500’s BC predicted the future with 100% accuracy.
Well, A: They don’t really like because they don’t believe that God is real, it’s strange that Bible scholars don’t believe in God. You think you would pick another line of work...
B: No humans could possibly predict the sorts of things we are going to study over the next couple months in Daniel.
So they have come up with Option C: God isn’t real but some sneaky humans in the 150’s BC wrote a book called Daniel filled with hundreds of historical facts that they claimed were “predictions”, and then tricked everyone into thinking that this book was over 350 years old and they even got the Jews to include it as scripture.
And you know they had everyone fooled and they would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those pesky modern scholars from the past 200 years that exposed the fraudulent ruse that was Daniel. Let me give you a couple reasons why I think the book of Daniel was written by Daniel in the 500’s BC. And I don’t have time to really go much in depth into this, this is why we have got an 18 page article out by the counter that you can pick up if this is something you are interested in.
Why do I think Daniel was written by Daniel in the 500s BC?
- It claims to be written by Daniel in the 500’s BC. And we really shouldn’t underestimate this point. You know the author refers to himself in the first person as an eye witness over 100 times in this book. That would be a complete lie if it was written 375 years later. Nine times he says, “I Daniel.” Five other times he says, “and then he said to me ‘Hey Daniel’” also he mentions Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon in the 500’s BC 31 times. Stories, episodes from Nebuchadnezzar’s life. He also mentions king Belshazzar who was the final ruler of Babylon eight times.
Excursus on Belshazzar
I just want to take a brief moment to do a little excursus on Belshazzar because I think this is so interesting. Belshazzar, this is a guy who co-reigned with his father, king Nabonidus for such a short time that he was forgotten and his story almost ended immediately, he was like unmemorable. Even the Greek historians Herodotus writing in 450 BC and Xenophon who died around 350 BC, they missed Belshazzar, they said Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon. And what this did was this prompted skeptical scholar after scholar to say this guy Belshazzar, this is just a figment of some guys imagination in the 150’s BC. In fact, Ferdinand Hitzig in his famous book, Das Buch Daniel, 1850. He wrote that Belshazzar was “a figment of the writer's imagination,” whoever wrote Daniel. Yeah Hitzig, well Das Buch Daniel is not really a best seller anymore here though, because four years later, they started finding the Nabonidus Cylinders. On the Nabonidus Cylinders, King Nabonidus refers to Belshazzar my first-born son.
Well, these guys weren’t convinced yet. Here is what the rejoinder form HF Talbot the 1850 German scholar, by 1874 he had written this,
This proves nothing…[Belshazzar] is not an unfrequent name…some writers say Belshazzar was co-regent with Nabonidus his father. But of this there is not the slightest evidence in the inscription or elsewhere. He may have been a mere child when it was written.
--Samuel Birch, Records of the past: being English tr. Of the Assyrian and Egyptian monuments [ed. by S. Birch], 1874
Well, as the tablets rolled in Gleason Archer points out the,
“thirty-seven archival texts dated from the first to the fourteenth year of Nabonidus now attest to Belshazzar’s historicity”
Quoted in Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. Vol. 18. Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1994. New American Commentary. Daniel 5:1.
This indicates that he did co-reign with Nabonidus, that he was second in the kingdom, not first, which is why in Daniel 5 he says, “Daniel for what you have done I am going to make you third over all the kingdom of Babylon.” Why third? Because his dad was 1 and he was 2. So Daniel couldn’t be higher than 3. That is an eyewitness detail. Also, Nabonidus was captured when the Medes showed up to conquer Babylon. Belshazzar was killed. Just like Daniel had said,
“Belshazzar was killed the night that the Medes came and took over the city.”
So if Belshazzar’s story was lost for 2392 years, how could anyone other than an eyewitness know anything about him? Did the guy who supposedly wrote in 150 dig up the Nabonidus Cylinder and then bury it back where he found it? No, this is one of those things where sometimes you come across things in the Bible where you are like, “man we can’t necessarily confirm this from archeology... Maybe we should just throw the whole thing out.” No, I’ve sort of learned that there have been enough of these, that I am okay suspending judgement when it comes to small things whether or no Belshazzar really existed.
Why do I think Daniel was written by Daniel in the 500s BC? Continued…
- Other biblical authors say this was written by Daniel. For example, his contemporary Ezekiel, who wrote from Babylon in the 500’s BC. He references Daniel three times and extols his righteousness and his wisdom. In fact, in Ezekiel 14:14 he extols the righteousness of Noah and Daniel and Job. Noah and Job, two famous guys from a long time ago in the Bible, very righteous, and Daniel his contemporary, He is saying Daniel was one of the top three most godly dudes who has ever lived is what Ezekiel says. Even skeptics date Ezekiel to the 500’s. So how do they get around this? It seems like a big point for the Daniel camp. Here is what they say, “well Noah and Job these are the guys from the Bible, Daniel is not the guy who was in Babylon at the time who was well known to the Jews.” No, Daniel was obviously the ancient Canaanite hero who devoted his life to the worship of Baal and other pagan gods. That’s their explanation for Ezekiel’s reference to Daniel. You know this is so ridiculous. It’s like me saying, “your team couldn’t beat us at basketball even if you had LeBron, Kobe, and Jordan.” And If I said that you would know that I am of course referring to LeBron James of the Cavs, Kobe Bryant from the Lakers, and Jordan Peters from my home church. The great ones! That’s how bad you are at basketball; you could have all three of them and still couldn’t beat us. Okay that is a complete misrepresentation of what Ezekiel (or I) would have said. It’s not just Ezekiel, Jesus, for example, (if you put any stock in His teaching), he cites a line from Daniel. He says, “this was spoken of through the prophet Daniel,” (Matthew 24:15). That says a lot in my book.
- Ancient Jewish sources (which I don’t have time to get into) like the Maccabees and 1 Enoch, from the 150’s BC also like Josephus’ Antiquities from the 1st century AD.
- T syntax of Daniel’s Aramaic (which I also don’t have time for), I am sure you guys know all about this, though right? You know that the Genesis Apocryphon for the Dead Sea Scrolls cave one wasn’t even discovered when the late date theories of Daniel were brought about. But of course, what we found from that document is that later Aramaic puts the verbs before the nouns. But early Aramaic like Daniel puts the nouns before the verbs. What an elementary mistake of Aramaic syntax. Daniel’s Aramaic couldn’t have been from the second century BC, tt had to have been much earlier, like when it claims to be written.
Alright, the point is, if you want more on the authenticity of Daniel, pick up a copy of this Archer article from his Survey of Old Testament Introduction, if you really want to go much more into this Aramaic syntax. But if you are satisfied, (well, even if you’re not) we are going to have to move on. Because tonight we are going to meet Daniel in Daniel 1, we are going to learn how he ended up in Babylon and we are going to see the first big test of his faith.
During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
What is this event that Daniel is referring to? Daniel says Nebuchadnezzar first conquered Jerusalem in 605 BC, there are actually a couple times he moved in, conquered the Jews and took exiles back to Babylon, this is the first. Again I’m going to just take a moment and point out that scholars like S.R. Driver out of Oxford said this first invasion never happened. You can check out his Intro to Literature of the Old Testament from 1925 and see his scoffing at what Daniel is saying.. He says this didn’t happen until several years later. Well 31 years after his publication, a cuneiform tablet was discovered stating that Nebuchadnezzar did indeed conquer all of Palestine after the battle of Carchemish in Egypt in the spring of 605 BC (Miller, NAC, 57). Yet another confirmation, a satisfying confirmation, of the biblical account. Another point in the Daniel column. This is real stuff, okay? I am bringing these up because I want you guys to know that whether this really happened matters. Biblical faith is rooted in history, God is the God of history.
And so, in 605 BC there was this prophet named Jeremiah who had been preaching on the streets of Jerusalem pleading with the people of Jerusalem for 22 years at this point. We have 52 chapters of Jeremiah’s teaching preserved for us in our Bibles. He was pleading with them, warning them, he said, ‘Look, God is going to hand you over to Babylon unless you turn back to him.’ He was warning them, ‘he is not going to keep protecting you like he has up until now.’ But the people did not want to listen to Jeremiah, there were other prophets going through the city saying ‘don’t listen to Jeremiah,’ saying ‘We are going to be fine.’ They were preaching a message of peace. Well Daniel would have been living in Jerusalem and would have grown up under the preaching of Jeremiah. He was in Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar captured the city, when he surrounded it by siege. And so he would have heard Jeremiah’s teaching.
He was only about 14 years old at this time, imagine him sitting under the preaching of the prophet Jeremiah. That is a freshman in highschool, it’s a very strange time in a boy’s life. Guys do you remember when your lives were like when you were 14 years old? Girls, do you remember what freshman boys are like? Have you seen one recently? They are very strange creatures… you sort of forget what they’re like until you see them and are like “woah!” You know was he in the midst of puberty? Was he hoping he would hit puberty like some of us when we were 14? Was he into girls? Was he wondering what is going to come of my life? One thing we do know, even though Jeremiah says, “ there were no godly men in Jerusalem at this time.” There must have been some godly women because Daniel knew some things about God. But at this point in his life he would have been a man of faith, he would have heard the prophet Jeremiah, he would have seen the suffering of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was locked up and thrown in prison multiple times. He heard the warnings, he could have read the scriptures that Jeremiah was quoting. He would have been trained pretty well, he would have had pretty good education actually.
One day, though, he saw Jeremiah’s predictions come true. Imagine that day again, you’re a 14 year old boy, and then you see the mighty army of Babylon appear on the horizon, swarming like locusts up to your city as everybody flees to get inside the city gates — to shut the gates. They surround the city like a plague of locusts, consuming everything in sight. To live under siege, for what must not have been a very long time, but still wouldn’t have been pleasant before they surrendered or were broken through. Some prophets were predicting peace but Jeremiah predicted 7 years in Babylon and Jeremiah was right. It says,
The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.
Now why’d they do that? Well, back then if my army lost to your army it meant that my gods had lost to your gods. That was seen as proof positive that my god is better than your god or that your god is no god at all. So, he is taking these objects from the temple in Jerusalem back to put them in the temple of Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon. This was almost sort of like a trophy room from the gods that Bel and Nebo and the others have conquered. The Ark of the Covenant, you know the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” These are the guys that lost it, probably… we know it was there before this time and it's not there after this time, so who knows where it went… But, they took these back and took them back to Babylonia, and many would have been wondering, ‘where was God when we needed him?’ Many would have been doubting God. They go through suffering and are like "God how could you let this happen? We trusted you, we believed in you. We thought you were the most powerful, and does this mean you are a nobody?"
Well, Daniel sees God’s hand at work in their defeat and captivity. Daniel doesn’t say our gods lost to their gods, he says “No, Nebuchadnezzar won because the Lord gave him victory. He took those objects from the temple because God let him do it — God permitted him to do it.
How did he know that? He had a theological view, he had God’s perspective on the suffering, he had heard what Jeremiah had been saying, he had read the scriptures where God said, ‘Look, your security depends upon your faithfulness to me, and if you just trust me I’ll protect you, I’ll take care of you. But if you don’t then you are on your own.’ Daniel knew that was what had happened. This was not a sign that God had failed him, but a sign that they had failed God. He is teaching them a lesson about faithfulness. One thing we see is that once the Jews come back from captivity you never see them falling back into idol worship again. You know just like any parent of a toddler, would give their kid a time out, to teach them to listen… God is saying to his people, ‘you guys are in time out, in Babylon for 70 years.’ And it is actually going to work. It’s gonna teach them something, and they will be a whole lot more faithful to Him and His word after they go back at the end of the 500s BC. Daniel sees this, he has a sharp perspective on this and I bet he saw it this way at this time as well.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives.
And so we see Daniel is writing these events not just as a passive observer, but as one of the guys who was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and marched back to Babylon during this time. Apparently, he was part of the royal family, or some of the nobles there at least. Which would have meant he would have had really good education. He would have learned the scriptures, he would have learned the Torah, the prophets and the psalms. He would have been well educated in all the learning of the Hebrews, and he is one of the ones who was brought back to Babylon. So these boys, they were torn from their families, they were marched back to Babylon in a way that would have been in a way that was as humiliating as possible — you can guarantee that. Sometimes they were stripped naked, chained to one another, and marched the several hundred mile journey all the up and around the fertile crescent, through the desert to the ancient, amazing city of Babylon. In fact, what they would have seen when they marched into Babylon would have dwarfed anything that they had ever seen in their lives. They thought Jerusalem was pretty sweet, they thought their temple was pretty sweet, well they hadn’t seen nothing yet. You can imagine these guys, with all that time to think following the prisoner in front of them, ‘where is God? What has happened? What am I to make of all this?’ They would have been completely disoriented… All of their hopes had been shattered that God was going to protect them, and then they marched through the desert and then this glorious city appeared on the horizon. After hundreds of miles of nothingness, in the distance, the lights and the city and the towers of Babylon began to rise.
Some of the buildings here would have been over 300 feet tall. That’s almost as tall as some of the buildings in downtown Columbus. One of the gates, the Ishtar gate, they have actually reconstructed this in the Berlin museum, and there is another replica of it in Iraq today, but to march up to something like this, it’s just one of the many gates around the city, fourteen miles of walls around the city. There was also the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This was built by Nebuchadnezzar, for his wife because she was from the mountains and she didn’t really like the flat desert and so he basically built a mountain for her. But the science, the technology, the wealth of Babylon... just astounding to the Hebrew youths. John Lennox, in his book on Daniel Against the Flow, says two things must have simultaneously struck Daniel and his friends about Babylon.
- The first was the sheer elegance of the architecture and the advanced state to which learning had been brought; the second was the fact that idolatry permeated the whole society to an almost unbelievable degree. There were gods all over the place: the main gates were named after them, and there were temples galore — over a thousand at that time. Lennox, John. Against the Flow.
What a disconnect between what they have been taught, and then to see, it’s almost like they came to the big leagues now. They have been disoriented, they would have been open to new ideas at this point, with all their hopes shattered, with the Babylonians moving in to build up these young men, to build them up in the ways of Babylon. That’s exactly why they are being chosen.
Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men
The youth, young enough that they could still be indoctrinated, but they were still old enough to be Jews. The 13, 14, 15 year olds, they had already been raised and had even had the right of passage into manhood that happens for Jewish men at the age of 13. But they were still young enough that they could be fully Babylonian. So what they would do is they would take these guys and teach them all the ways of Babylon, not only the literature and science, but also the religion because astrology and religion were intertwined with all of the other learning. They would either keep them there in Babylon as ambassadors or they would send them back to the conquered country as rulers. Knowing that they would be accepted by the people as indigenous, but also be indoctrinated by the Babylonians, so it was a good way to keep their territories under control, it was pretty smart.
Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace.
He says, ‘I want you to go and get me the best of the best freshman boys, in this class of prisoners that we have just brought home. Healthy, strong, good looking, smart, the kind of people that we can use, in royal service here. I want you, Ashpenaz, to’
train these men the language and literature of Babylon
including the religion and the astrology of Babylon. Make them Babylonian Jews.
The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens.
So now he is going to wine and dine these men. He’s saying, ‘look at all that Babylon has to offer, you didn’t have any of this back in Jerusalem.’ Religion and food was closely related, they would toast to the gods before drinking the wine like we see in Daniel 5, the meat would have been sacrificed to idols right before his eyes and then served to them. They are saying, ‘you are in the big leagues, you’ve never had anything like this.’ They were to be trained for three years and then they would enter the royal service. That’s when they would get their commissioning, they’re in bootcamp right now.
Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen all from the tribe of Judah.
He narrows in on the four guys — There were a lot of others, apparently, that came along — and these are the only four guys we are going to hear about.
The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names,
They said “Ah, your Hebrew name isn’t going to work anymore, you guys are Babylonian now.”
Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
Daniel means ‘God is my judge,’ and they're like ‘Really? Then why did we defeat your god? How about this name sir, may Bel protect his life. So no longer is your name God is my judge, now may Bel protect your life. You're a worshipper of Bel.’ ...they are attacking their very identity.
Hananiah was called Shadrach.
Hananiah means ‘the Lord is gracious,’ Shadrach means, ‘under the command of Aku,’ one of their gods.
Mishael was called Meshach.
Mishael meant ‘who was like God?’ Meshach well that’s easy, ‘who was like Aku?’ Good question… I have no idea.
Azariah, which means ‘the Lord has helped, God is my help,’ you will be called Abednego, “servant of Nego”.
And so the year these boys turned 14, what happened in their lives?
- They’re battered by ancient war
- Surrounded by siege, by the greatest world ruler the world had seen by then and the greatest empire the world has seen by then.
- They were torn from their families perhaps, they saw their families killed right before their very eyes. We never hear anything else about Daniel's family.
- They were taken POWs, marched naked across the desert to the greatest city in the world at that time — the city of Babylon
- They were humiliated, jeered at upon entrance
- Astonished by the grandeur of Babylonian culture and religion.
- Indoctrinated by the elite, just pounded by the most powerful scholars of that day, by the program of Babylonian indoctrination
- Wined and dined, they offered them any wealth, any pleasure, that they could possibly want.
- Then they renamed them, attacking their very identity. This was truly an all out assault on their very souls. Their family, their health, their religion, their name... Everything is under attack and they are trying to rewrite a new identity.
This is enough current to sweep anyone anyway, it was like these boys were dropped into the middle of the raging Euphrates river. And they would be swept away. Daniel 1:1-7 should be these guys’ spiritual epitaph. This should be the last we ever hear of these guys, before they go off and be good Babylonians for the rest of their lives, before they are swept away by this Babylonian system.
And in Daniel 1:8, we see two unbelievable words after reading verses 1-7. It says,
And we find things are taking a very unexpected turn of events. That changes from being their spiritual epitaph to the first chapter in one of the greatest lives for God that has ever been lived. A life lived in the darkest time perhaps in the history of God’s people, where God would reveal his most astounding prophecies at a time when his people needed it the most and the guy he picked was Daniel because of the stand that he took. We see this 14 year old boy dropped in the middle of a raging river, and instead of being swept away he plants his feet and turns around in the other direction. And not only does he resist the tide but he takes step after step after step for the rest of his life — at least 70 more years, resisting the culture that was so powerfully ripping at him, to pull him away.
The Current of our Culture
This is why we need to study Daniel’s life, because whether you realize it or not you have been dropped into a rushing river that sweeps most people away. Did you know that? Most people don’t even notice it, because they are floating along with the current. Have you ever done one of those lazy rivers at the water parks? You don’t realize how strong the current is until you stop and try to resist the current. And either you get pulled by the current or you get blasted by an 8 year old on an inner tube… But either way, there is so much coming that direction it’s hard to not go that direction, but going that direction is the easiest thing in the world.
What does the current look like in our culture? I’ll just name a couple:
You ask people ‘is there such a thing as truth?’ what would 19 out of 20 people you interview on the street say to that? ‘No! whatever is true is true for you… you make your own truth.’ Really? So you think 19 out of 20 people just research postmodernism, read the literature and then came to the exact same conclusion? All 19 of them? Whatever is true for you is true for you? Or is it possible that they’re just floating with the current, they are just absorbing their values from the people around them? You know there is something sort of comforting, there is something sort of relaxing about just floating with the current. You know, sheep they sort of like to be in the flock with other sheep, there is a herd mentality. There is something relaxing to sheep about seeing that little sheepy tail right in front of their eyes, just wiggling away… and some people are like that, they feel like, ‘if I am believing what everyone else is believing then I must be okay, right?’ Majority must rule in this situation. You don’t realize how strong the current is until you try to stand in it, until you try to become the 1 out of 20. Then you realize just how much pressure there is to conform to this view that, ‘whatever is true for you is true for you.’ I do think it’s sort of ironic how all these postmodernist are outraged at these fake news outlets and they’re critiquing, ‘you can’t just make up your own truth!’ Isn’t that the essence of what postmodernism has been teaching? They don’t have any basis for criticizing it! As a Christian though, who believes in truth, we have basis for criticizing all forms of non-truth and relativism.
‘Are there many valid ways to God?’ Of 20 people on the street you’d probably get 19 who say, ‘yes there are, there are many ways to the top… Whatever is true for you is true for you… whatever is the right way to god for you is the right way to go for you…’ All right… then you go Jesus says “I am the way the truth is life and no one comes through to the father except through me.” Wait… so, I think Jesus is the only way to God and they’re like, ‘You can’t say that! Your way is not valid!’ So every way is valid except for my way? It actually sounds like your way is the only way that’s valid… Why do you get to make up the rules? Why do you get to make the only valid way? It seems sort of intolerant doesn’t it? No, you become the one of the 20 that says Jesus is the way, the only way, like he claimed and all of a sudden you realize how strong the current is.
What about this one, ‘should my pursuit of God ever take a priority in my life?’ People are like, ‘No, religion is nice if it makes you feel good but you better not let that get in the way of the important things… like your career and making money and accumulating possessions and trying to get as much pleasure as possible and never having to suffer at all… and if your pursuit of God ever, ever puts a damper on any of those things…’ Well, you’ll feel the strength of the current if you decide to be the one in 20 on this one. 19 out of 20 people are going as hard as they can for everything this world has to offer… and it’s only a rare person, even some Christians are just living for this world, it’s a rare person that will stand up and will choose a different way, the way of Christ, the way of guys like Daniel.
You just can’t feel the strength of the current until you try to resist it… and this is what Daniel does. The Bible offers a different way, it says, “Don’t be conformed to this present world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2). You don’t just have to be another sheep in the flock, you don’t just have to float down that river you can put your feet down and take a stand. You can learn how to think outside the box, not just absorbing your views from the people around you, but actually thinking through worldviews and implications. And yeah, some Christians, they’re not thinkers, and I think that’s pitiful. But God is a God of truth, and we follow this not because it makes us feel a certain way — some Christians are just trying to find out what makes me feel good and does this resonate with me and if it does I’ll follow God. Have you ever considered following God because it’s the right thing to do? Because it’s true? And it’s when you build your life on these rock solid convictions and plant your feet on the rock and can sink your roots down into it — that’s when you start to really stand out, and make a difference and stand against the current.
We need to pay attention to how Daniel resisted the powerful current of his culture and we’re going to learn a few things about that tonight as we read through the last several verses of this chapter. It says, despite everything going against him,
Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.
Resisting the Current
So where does Daniel start in resisting the current of his culture? He had convictions! He developed convictions! He didn’t start by action, it started with something internal. It was a choice of the mind and of the heart. Where did he get his convictions? I think one of the best places to get convictions is the word of God and you can bet that’s where Daniel got his from. How do we know that? Well he had God’s perspective on his sufferings, we saw back in verse two. If he didn’t have that he never would have resisted the humiliating, hundred of mile trek from Jerusalem to Babylon. He would’ve lost his faith long time ago along with the other guys who were taken captive with him, pretty much all of them.
He also knew the food would defile him. How did he know that? Because he’s been reading his word! He knew for one, the meat they were going to eat had certainly not been prepared with attention to the meat preparation requirements and the dietary laws of the Old Testament… they had food laws back then for the Jews. He’s like ‘I’m betting they didn’t follow Leviticus when it was slaughtered this animal for us…’ also, the meat would’ve been dedicated right before his very eyes and some sort of sacrifice, before it was served to them. And so, both how the meet was prepared and also how it was dedicated, he just knew ‘I can’t do this. This would be tacitly throwing in with them and also I might be violating God‘s laws anyway...’ They didn’t have food laws about wine, but we see in Daniel 5 that there’s a toast to the gods of Babylon before they drink it. And so Daniel is like, ‘I just can’t do this.’ And so he decided, and convictions don’t come easily. He really had to think about this, if we underestimate how hard it is gonna be you’re not gonna make it. You don’t lightly enter into something like this. No, he thought about what he was definitely not going to do before he thought about how he was going to do it.
And so, maybe you need to get before the Lord and tell him, ‘I don’t wanna be conformed.’ Maybe you need to devote some time trying to develop a habit of reading God‘s word every day, reading books that take you deeper into his word for deeper study. You really learn your word, so you can have a kind of conviction. You know, God‘s word, that’s the light for our feet, the lamp to our path. That’s going to bring us back into a counter-cultural, trans-cultural position.
And then, once Daniel made up his mind, he starts not with a protest, he doesn’t chain himself to one of the pillars, start chanting ‘hell no, we won’t go,’ No, he starts with a simple conversation with Ashkenaz the chief of staff we met earlier, and
he asked [the chief of staff] if he could have permission to not eat these foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel.
Daniel must’ve been pretty winsome. He’s the kind of guy who is likable. If you’re gonna make it in Babylon you’re gonna need to be winsome, you’re gonna need to learn how to be respectful with people in authority over you. I wish more Christians were like this, Daniel is the kind of guy who would be like ‘I can’t say yes to this, but I really want to, I’m sort of caught between you [Ashkenaz], who I like, and Nebuchadnezzar who could kill me…’ And that’s what he says, he says in verse 10,
I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.
That was not a crazy fear… Nebuchadnezzar did this sort of thing…
So we have already seen he’s winsome, he’s hard-working, Daniel is, he’s the kind of guy who Ashkenaz really wants to say yes to even though he just can’t… We’ve also seen Daniel request an exemption. Maybe this has an application for you! Is there an authority figure in your life who’s calling you to do something that’s against your convictions you’ve developed. That was number one developing connections. Maybe it’s a boss, a professor, perhaps a parent? Someone else? Who’s calling on you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing. Have you tried respectfully requesting an exemption, have you tried asking? Some people are too afraid to do that. Have you put in the groundwork to become a winsome, likable person with that authority figure?
Also, he links up with like-minded friends, that’s another practical step. Remember back in verse eight, it said, ‘Daniel resolved in his own mind that he wasn’t going to do this.’ But by verse 10 what does Ashkenaz say? ‘He’s ordered that you all...’ this is a plural “you” he’s saying. ‘Eat this food and wine,’ he says, ‘if you guys become pale and thin compared to the other youths of your age, I’m afraid I’ll be beheaded’ and so suddenly it’s not just Daniel making a request. But sometime between his conviction and his request, he found some other guys who are on the same page with him. The three guys we met earlier who got renamed, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego. And, if you’re gonna make it in Babylon, if you’re going to resist the current, you better find some like-minded friends to link up with. You might find other people with those convictions — you might be able to lead other people with the same convictions. Most of the people that went to Babylon with him looked like they lost their faith, we never hear anything about them… but they weren’t too worried about that.
But, even with all that, Ashkenaz still says no. So what does Daniel do? Did he just give up? No, he goes to the next step. He didn’t get permission, but he got information and he’s going to do something with this information. He doesn’t give up. He comes up with a creative solution, namely asking somebody else, but framing the question a little bit differently. If you’re gonna make it in Babylon you better not be the person who gives up easily. You better learn to think creatively, you better learn to ask somebody else. Persistence, perseverance… it’s not gonna be easy. Well,
Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff.
So not Ashkenaz, but the guy under him. That guy was the one specifically in charge of handing out their food. So, he goes to him, and he says,
Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water
He’s like ‘...look you can keep that stuff just give us vegetables and water… you can have our meat and wine... Nobody has to know... it’s low risk for you, and at the end of the ten days let’s just see how we look! What do you think?’ Compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food... and then, make your decision in light of what you see.” You know, this might actually be a good career move for you know, if we’re looking better, they might be thinking this attendant over these four guys, is a pretty good guy. And so,
the attendant agreed. And he tested them for ten days.
So they go all vegan for ten days. Not for the health reasons necessarily, but for religious reasons.
And at the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished then the young man who had been eating the food assigned by the king. After that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for others.
So the attendant kept the meat and wine, probably for himself... I don’t know what he did… And Daniel got some vegetables and water…
God gave these four young men an aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom.
These guys, they were soaking up the Babylonian lessons. You know, the science, the literature, the religion even, they weren’t practicing the religion, but they were understanding the religion. They were learning probably to critique the religion. They knew the Babylonian thinking better than the Babylonians did. And that’s how we need to be as Christians. We need to know the thinking of this world, not just as well as, but even better than the people who hold to those worldviews. We need to have a thoughtful critique of those. We need to be able to point those critiques out in a winsome way, and to show them where that really falls short and doesn’t hold up in everyday life. That’s what these guys did. This is what Christians need more of. In addition,
God gave Daniel a special of her ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.
Which is going to be used throughout the book of Daniel. It’s going to become very important.
When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
So these are four 17-year-old boys and the most powerful man in the world is finding them more capable, more intelligent than his closest advisers. Think how galling that would’ve been to the kings advisers. Imagine today, that’s just as ridiculous as saying the most powerful man in America… Imagine that four 17-year-olds were more intelligent, wiser, sharper, than the group of brilliant geniuses surrounding him and advising him… That’s how crazy this would’ve been.
Daniel puts a nice little epilogue on this chapter, it says,
He remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus…
Why did he stick that verse on here? This is 70 years later. Daniel says, ‘Babylon was the most powerful empire in the world. King Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful emperor the world had ever seen... but you know who was still standing 70 seven years later? Babylon was gone, conquered by the Medes just like God said it would be.’
Nebuchadnezzar had been dead for 25 years, but God was still on his throne. You know who else was still there? He says, ‘me, Daniel.’ I bet he was glad he didn’t throw in with Babylon at that point. He knew it was passing away, he knew it was temporary. He would’ve been in bad shape if he threw in with Babylon at that point.... And the same is true for us! You could throw in with this world. You can jump in with the current, but if you do that, you’re going to regret it. People who threw in with Babylon would have regretted it when Babylon fell.
Scripture says, “One day they will call out ‘fallen, fallen is mighty Babylon the great,” (Revelation 17). The symbol for the world system. It tries to distract us from God, and at that point, a lot of people are going to regret that they threw in with this current and they’re going to realize that the current was rushing so rapidly because it was headed toward a waterfall. One day God’s going to peel back the veil of this world system and you’re going to be standing face-to-face with Him. At the feet of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The time to get right with Christ is now. Not by doing good works, but by accepting his good works done on your behalf. Accepting his offer, his sacrifice for your sins. That’s really your move tonight. That’s your first decision. Will you get right with God?
The second decision is that you need to decide if you want to be conformed or transformed. If you want conformity, you can basically do nothing because that’s the default position. You can float along with the current and take comfort from the little wiggling sheep tail right in front of you, going the same direction as everyone else and patting yourself on the back because of that. But if you want to plant your feet and turn around and walk upstream, you’re gonna have to tell the Lord, that’s what you want. You’re gonna have to let him transform the way you think — It’s not something you can do on your own.