Monday, November 9, 2009

Daniel Purposed

Daniel 1:8 (NKJV)
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.

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Daniel is the incident in which God miraculously delivered him from the lion’s den. That episode is recorded in Daniel 7. That is truly a great miracle. Daniel was a courageous prophet who trusted God even if it put him in personal jeopardy. This was not the first time Daniel risked it all. Daniel lived in a society that was generally hostile to God. He was challenged from the very beginning. The first chapter of Daniel sets the stage with his counter cultural approach.

When Judah fell to Babylon in 586 BC one of the strategies of their captors was to take young men from the conquered land, bring them to Babylon and brain wash them into their belief system. Once these young men were retrained they could then be used to oversee the newly conquered land. Daniel and some other young men were among the first to be inducted into the “Babylon Jr. Executive Program.”

Can you imagine what it would be like for a young like Daniel to leave the meager setting of his home in Israel and be exposed to the glories and wonders of a city like Babylon. You may remember that one of the seven ancient wonders of the world includes the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which dates to this period of time. As a part of the kings court Daniel would have had a bird’s eye view of the best that Babylon had to offer. Yet notice our text in verse eight Daniel instead chooses to exclude himself from the temptations set before him. It says that he would not defile himself with the king’s delicacies.

Under Jewish law Daniel would have been forbidden to eat certain types of food and also be forbidden to eat food that was not prepared properly or offered to pagan gods. The kings food, although the choice meat of that day would have been ceremonially unclean for Daniel (Lev. 1:1). This was an incredibly courageous act for this young man considering his circumstances.

1. This action may have appeared to be disrespectful to the king.
2. Refusing food could have seemed to be an ungrateful act to the servants who prepared the food.
3. Peer pressure from all the other captives would have been a difficult challenge.
4. Acting this way no doubt would put Daniel’s potential career advancement at jeopardy.
5. The food that was refused was the best available.
6. Daniel was 900 miles away from home and family, it would be easy to get away with misconduct.
7. Perhaps Daniel could have justified giving in to this defilement after all God had allowed the children of Israel to be captive.

But Daniel did not give into his circumstances because from the beginning he purposed in his heart not to defile himself. We know the rest of the story that follows and how God used him and providentially protected him. All of this began with a purpose not to defile himself.

What is not told but implied in this narrative is also interesting. We are not told why Daniel stood firm on his decision to trust and obey God even in dire circumstances. By implication we may conclude that he had a heart for God, and no doubt it was nurtured in his early childhood. Someone taught Daniel that the king’s meat would defile him. Someone taught Daniel that God was to be trusted, believed, and obeyed. It would not be a stretch to conclude that his parents and the community of God’s people in helped to foster this courage.

The key passage for the Old Testament believer was Deuteronomy 6:4.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

This verse speaks of the nature of God and our proper response which is total commitment. This personal commitment is followed by an overflow into the lives of their children. Notice verses 6-9.

6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

From early on children were formally catechized with the great doctrines of God. But this teaching was not confined to the classroom it permeated the fabric of daily life.

The courage of Daniels convictions were forged in the furnace of a faithful family and community of faith.