The Book of Daniel is fascinating. It’s both a book of history and prophecy. Most importantly, it teaches us how to stand firm in our faith and not give in to the temptations and lures of culture, even power-hungry rulers. Let’s dig in…
Daniel 1 – In Nebuchadnezzar’s Court
Our story starts in Babylon where the first of Judah’s best and brightest were taken into exile in 605 BC.
During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave him 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.
3 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. 4 “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “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. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon. 5 The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
6 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. 7 The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:
Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
Hananiah was called Shadrach.
Mishael was called Meshach.
Azariah was called Abednego.
8 But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. 9 Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. 10 But he responded, “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.”
11 Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16 So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.
17 God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.
18 When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20 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.
21 Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus. (~46 years)Daniel 1 NLT
- Jehoiakim ruled from 608-597 BC — he was one of the bad kings of Judah.
- Daniel and his friends were taken during Babylon’s first invasion of Judah. They took the nobles, the educated — the best and the brightest. All with the intent of brainwashing them and using them to further Nebuchadnezzar’s realm.
- They were young, probably in their teens.
- Their names were changed to glorify the pagan gods. Their Hebrew names glorified the One True God…
- Daniel means “God is my Judge”; Beltheshazzar means “Bel protects”. Bel was one of their gods — a variation of Baal.
- Hananiah means “Yahweh is gracious”; Shadrach means “command of Marduk”, another god
- Mishael is Hebrew for “Who is or what God is”; Meshack is Babylonian for “Who is or what Marduk is?”
- Azariah means “Yahweh has helped”; Abednego is “servant of Nebo”.
- Each teen had their God-glorifying name replaced with a name that honored the pagan idols of Babylon: Bel, Marduk and Nebo. This whole process was to tear apart their faith and convert them into idolatrous pagans.
- Nebuchadnezzar enrolled them all in a 3-year, brainwashing indoctrination to re-educate them in the pagan culture.
- They were relocated, renamed and reprogrammed.
Standing in the Faith
The Jews’ kosher food laws prohibited them from eating meat with blood still in it, as well as a list of other “unclean” animals. Obviously the pagans, didn’t care. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to spoil them with rich, luscious food, fit for a king. However, Daniel and his friends stood their ground. They would not defile themselves with Gentile food. Thus, Daniel, in a very diplomatic way, convinced them to serve them only vegetables and water for 10 days to test them. At the end of the 10 days, they looked healthier than the other men. Hence, we have the infamous “Daniel Fast” diet plan.
In addition, God gave them special skills and abilities so they would be treated well in the king’s court. We shall see how these skills and abilities came in handy as we go on.
Are you defiling your life?
Defile means to pollute or taint. It’s the opposite of PURITY. In today’s world, we can easily defile ourselves by what we watch, read, or listen to. We also defile our bodies by eating junk food. God created us in HIS image and if you’re born again, you have the Holy Spirit in your heart. Your body becomes a temple or sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote…
19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT
Are YOU offending God in ANY way?
No matter what, Daniel and His friends could never offend God. As we will see, they would be loyal to Him in the face of death. Everyone in Nebuchadnezzar’s court knew that God was their master, their authority.
Notice that Daniel didn’t start an argument — he negotiated. That’s leadership. He would not lower his standards. He was tested and he chose obedience — he stood firm.
Can you do that?
We can, with the help of the Holy Spirit! How do you get this help? By humbling yourself and surrendering your life to Jesus. We, true born-again believers are like exiles — foreigners in a pagan world. Our citizenship is in Heaven. We are just passing through. We must hold tight to our faith and be unwavering no matter what the world throws at us.
How do you do that? It’s rather simple…
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
- Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.