Read: Daniel 1
The book of Daniel includes favorite stories from my youth as well as that of our children. I’m confident this has been the case for many people, literally for centuries–even before Gutenberg’s printing press! I’m in no hurry to run through the book, but it is only a few chapters, so we’ll see how it goes. Today, we will simply get started as Daniel sets the stage from some incredible life lessons.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, fulfilled God’s plan for punishing the Israelites for their generations of unfaithfulness. As crazy as VeggieTales makes him out to be, I would suggest Nebuchadnezzar was quite intelligent. He has a plan to assimilate those he has captured by integrating them into the fold carefully.
They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. Daniel 1:6-7
After all, why waste such valuable resources? It is all selfishly motivated, Nebuchadnezzar is only interested in advancing his cause, but once again, God’s plan is greater than any man’s desires and so we read in this short narrative just how that plays out.
The stage is set with Daniel and his comrades who are faithful followers of God. The training program consists of choice wine and food from the king’s kitchen, but Daniel has a different plan, he will not defile himself for the king or anyone else.
Not obeying the king is a bad idea, from the trainer’s perspective. Not only will Daniel be punished, but the trainer won’t escape wrath, so he asks Daniel to play nicely and eat the food offered! Daniel patiently suggests he give them 10 days to prove the king’s diet isn’t necessary for their health, strength and well-being.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. Daniel 1:15-16
The training continued. God showed favor to Daniel and his friends for their faithfulness, though they had no idea of what would transpire.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. Daniel 1:17
It’s no surprise that Nebuchadnezzar was impressed…after all we are reading the book…and they pass the 3 year indoctrination course with flying colors!
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. Daniel 1:20
And so it begins.
My primary takeaway from this introduction is that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were faithful for the purpose of being faithful. They were not told by Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel that they were instruments of God, nor were they given any special vision for their well-being. They did what honored God because it was the right thing to do. They were not bucking the system for favor and certainly not trying to gain attention. In a word, they had true integrity. This is why they stood out and why we love to read these stories.
Lord, may we do the things we do today to please you, an audience of one. This doesn’t give us a wildcard to disrespect those who are in authority over us; that was not Daniel’s intention, but help us to know how to serve you over all and work within the present circumstance for your greater glory. May we, in some ever increasing amount, grow in holy integrity. Amen.
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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.