This week we start the book of Daniel (of “the lions den” fame – the lion story comes up in a few weeks.) Daniel was just a kid when Jerusalem was overtaken and captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians army.
“The prophet Daniel lived in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus. During this approximate period:
– Construction on the Acropolis in Athens began
– Mayan civilization flourished in Mexico
– Aesop wrote his fables
– Confucius and Buddha lived
– Greek art began to truly excel
– The Phoenicians made the first known sea journey around Africa
– The Greeks introduced the olive tree to Italy”
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles,
4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.
6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
After the king took over Jerusalem and had carried away all the Jewish treasures from their temple, he then looked to their people. He saw that these Hebrew kids were smart! Historians estimate that Daniel and his three friends were between the ages of 13-17 years old. He found them to be:
-gifted in all wisdom
-possessing knowledge and quick to understand
-they had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and
-they could be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans
In order to make a community a better place to live, the wisdom of the world has always said that the key to doing that is “education”. It’s certainly and absolutely true that education enables a people to provide for themselves. With a better education, people can often get better jobs – no argument there. With a better education, people can often make better decisions about their health, their money, and their home. All of this is true. I’m not attempting to diminish the value of education one bit.
However, what the world will also often attempt to do is to educate kids in their own “faith”. In King Nebuchadnezzar’s day, that meant teaching these kids about the Babylonian gods and deities. That is why the king changes these Hebrew kids names into names that reflect their religion instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – Yahweh. (The new names that the king gives them all of a meaning that is related to the Babylonian religion.)
In today’s society, our schools do the same thing. But instead of teaching them about Babylonian gods, our schools often teach the kids that there is no God at all. They teach that the world evolved from nothing, that there was a “Big Bang” that started it all. They teach morals and ethics that leave God and the Bible completely out, or run contrary to what the Bible teaches. But the Bible tells us how important it is to teach our kids God’s word!
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
~ Proverbs 22:6
The Bible instructs Moms and Dads to teach their kids in faith in God, and the Bible tells kids to listen and learn from God’s word.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother.
~ Proverbs 1:7-8
King Nebuchadnezzar is trying to erase all that knowledge and solid teaching of God’s word from these kids minds. Many times today, our high schools and colleges do the exact same thing – they want us to forget or turn away from Biblical teachings and let the wisdom of the world guide us.
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
~ Psalm 1:1-2
The schools in our world today can certainly offer a great education. But we need to guard our hearts and minds by reading and studying the Bible to make sure that what we are being taught is not in conflict with what the Bible teaches. That’s the position where Daniel and his friends find themselves.
8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.
10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”
11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 “Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.”
14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
Daniel knew that if he followed the prescribed Babylonian diet, it would cause him to eat “unclean” foods. The Jewish law handed to them by God required that they not eat certain foods or they would be considered “unclean”. Daniel leads his three friends in objecting to the diet given by the king’s court.
“They had changed his name, but they could not change his nature. Whatever they pleased to call him, he still retained the spirit of an Israelite indeed. He would apply his mind as closely as any of them to his books, and took pains to make himself master of the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans, but he was resolved that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, he would not meddle with it, nor with the wine which he drank. And having communicated his purpose, with the reasons of it, to his fellows, they concurred in the same resolution.” ~ Matthew Henry
A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. ~ Proverbs 1:5
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. ~ Proverbs 9:9
Daniel was wise enough to know what was good teaching from the Lord and at the same time he could pick out the worthless teaching from the Babylonians. He was taught wisdom and discernment from his parents through God’s word.
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your heart to my knowledge;
For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you; Let them all be fixed upon your lips,
So that your trust may be in the LORD; I have instructed you today, even you.
Have I not written to you excellent things Of counsels and knowledge,
That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, That you may answer words of truth To those who send to you?
~ Proverbs 22:17-21
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
~ Proverbs 1:7
The book of Proverbs is loaded with verses that compare the wise man to the fool. If you have a heart’s desire the never leave the safety of God’s will and God’s teaching, study the Bible! God will reward your faithful heart.
The Lord Rewards Daniel
15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.
16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.
21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.
– These young men appeared healthier “than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies”
– The steward then allowed them to eat what they felt God had called them to eat (veggies) versus the normal prescribed diet
– God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom
– Suddenly “Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams”. Now Daniel was given a supernatural gift of being able to interpret the dreams and visions of others.
– They were appointed to serve the king in his court
– They were found to be “ten times better (in all matters of wisdom and understanding) than all the magicians and astrologers” who were in the kingdom
This gift of vision/dream interpretation was new to Daniel, but it was not a new miracle for God. Joseph was a man that also followed the Lord and chose to resist the temptation of the world offered to him by Potipher’s wife in Genesis 39.
Joseph was then sentenced to prison for his choice, and was granted by God the gift of dream interpretation in Genesis 40.
God rewarded Joseph for being faithful. God rewarded Daniel and his friends for their faithfulness to His word. When we are faithful to God, he will reward us as well.
He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, And have not wickedly departed from my God.
~ Psalm 18:19-21
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. ~ James 1:12