We didn’t have church last weekend, because I was in Redlands, California visiting a non-profit I volunteer for. It was a recording weekend for them, and the speaker/facilitator was Daniel Duda. Now, even though this sermon is titled “Be Like Daniel” and I think Daniel Duda would generally be a good person to emulate…
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
It is something Daniel taught me about another Daniel and his friends that I am going to try to share today.
I suspect you can guess which Daniel I am going to talk about. 🙂
Daniel and his friends were taken from Judah and conscripted for the service of King Nebuchadnezzar:
3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king (Daniel 1:3-5).
Sounds like a good gig. Free education, room and board, and food. However, let’s continue in the text, skipping to verse 8:
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days (Daniel 1:8-14).
Now, there is some faith! Utterly defenseless against the country that conquered theirs, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah push their luck and ask for a special diet, implicitly insulting “the king’s food” and wine.
We know how it turned out:
15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables (Daniel 1:15-16).
The four were faithful. God blessed them.
The next situation we are going to look at leaves Daniel out…and is one of my favorite narratives in the Bible. Short version is that King Nebuchadnezzar created a 90 feet tall, 9 feet wide golden statue:
Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:3-6).
Uh oh. If the king’s food and wine was a problem, clearly bowing down to a false idol is going to be. And it was. Daniel’s three friends did not bow down…were tattled on…and…
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:13-18).
Angry King Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace made as hot as possible, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were thrown into it and…
Were unscathed. Not only that, but either Jesus or an angel visited them in the flames.
The three were faithful. God protected them.
Okay, last story before we turn to something I learned new about Daniel from Daniel last weekend.
Every kingdom falls, sooner or later. Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians…and surprisingly enough, even though he was part of the previous administration, King Darius not only decided to keep Daniel on…but was planning on putting him in charge over his whole kingdom.
That did not sit well with the other leaders, so they tried to find dirt on Daniel.
However, being devious, evil, and ambitious…you know…like pretty any politician…
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. 🙂
Being devious, evil, and ambitious…they decide to set Daniel up:
6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously (Daniel 6:6-10).
What did Daniel get for his faithfulness? A free overnight stay in a lion’s den!!! The king had no choice, because the law he had just signed could not be changed…and Daniel, like his friends before…was tattled on.
However, hungry as they were, the lions didn’t devour…or even nibble on…Daniel. Why? Daniel explained that to Darius:
22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God (Daniel 6:22-23).
“No harm was found on him.”
Daniel was faithful. God protected him.
Three stories. Three outcomes:
- The four were faithful. God blessed them.
- The three were faithful. God protected them.
- Daniel was faithful. God protected him.
Daniel, especially, is pictured as being so faithful…that it almost seems like he is perfect. Never giving in.
Now, I know if I ask you if Daniel ever sinned, you would say yes…since you know everyone does. But, admit it, you would have a hard time imagining him compromising with governmental edicts.
Well, remember that training Daniel and his three friends got? Let’s learn a bit more about it from the Word Biblical Commentary:
The Babylonian sages combined many of the functions fulfilled by wise men, prophets, and priests in Israel, though they are to be distinguished from those cultic functionaries who were more especially concerned with the temple and its ritual. They were the guardians of the sacred traditional lore developed and preserved in Mesopotamia over centuries, covering natural history, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, myth, and chronicle. Much of this learning had a practical purpose, being designed to be applied to life by means of astrology, oneirology, hepatoscopy and the study of other organs, rites of purification, sacrifice, incantation, exorcism and other forms of divination and magic.
If I told you I was going to send Augie off to a school where he would learn “astrology, oneirology, hepatoscopy, and the study of other organs, rites for purification, sacrifice, incantation, exercise and other forms of divination and magic”…
What would you say?
If you love me, you’d tell me never, ever, ever to allow that…
Yet, Daniel and friends went through that training only complaining about the food and wine?!
Was that faithful?!
So, what’s up?
Well, Daniel and his three friends were not perfect. Not sinless.
It appears they did compromise.
But, when push came to shove and they saw a clear line in the sand…what did they do?
They were faithful. God blessed and protected them.
It is easy for me to look back and say that it is obvious they should have refused the training, but what is black-and-white in the current Western world isn’t the same as what was black-and-white back then in the Babylonian world. My guess is it was at least gray…but…
How many times do you feel in life certain decisions are gray? That you aren’t 100% sure if it is right or wrong to do something?
For instance, we are commanded to follow laws that aren’t against our faith, but…
How many here go over the speed limit?
Is that okay…well, at least if you don’t go way over the speed limit? The “spirit of the law” versus the law?
I’m not going to go into the other ways we could easily compromise on a “gray” matter…but I think you get the point.
I had never considered that Daniel made what I would consider a big mistake. Mentally, he seemed perfect.
As in my friend Daniel Duda…
Corrected that picture, reminding me Daniel…
As in Daniel in Babylon…
May have compromised…perhaps even when he should have known better.
But, God didn’t hold that against him. When choosing right…choosing our Lord…was clear…and Daniel did it…
God blessed and protected him.
With all the historical and end-time symbolism in the book of Daniel I missed that. I don’t know about you, but the book of Daniel is more meaningful to me now than it ever way. It is comforting.
And no, I am not saying to sin with impunity with the thought that God will have your back when you are suddenly faithful.
Nor that you shouldn’t wrestle with what you should do about gray items, thinking they don’t really matter.
Do not sin intentionally.
Do not rationalize to shift most gray items into white.
But, be of good cheer. The Lord’s dealings with Daniel and his three friends show that even if you haven’t always been as faithful as you should, God will bless you and protect you when the choice is clear and you choose wisely.
I cannot remember exactly how Daniel Duda said it, but what God really cares about is the trajectory of your life, not the human failings.
And, as we know from 1 John 1:9:
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Can I get an amen?
Be like Daniel.
You may have to wait until the other side of eternity to fully see it, but if you “be like Daniel”…
God will bless and protect you.
Be like Daniel.