By Kevin Shrum
Pastor, Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville
Focal Passage: Daniel 1:8-21
We are amid a massive cultural shift. Things that were once familiar are now strange; truths that were once cherished are no longer applauded. In his book, Reinventing Liberal Christianity, Theo Hobson traces the collapse of Western civilization through three steps: (1) What was universally condemned is now celebrated; (2) What was universally celebrated is now condemned; (3) Those who refuse to celebrate are condemned. In other words, we are “behind enemy lines” in the sense that the Christian faith is no longer the favored worldview in the public square. How are we now to live? Just as Daniel did when he found himself in a foreign land — with integrity and conviction.
A Commitment Expressed, Daniel 1:8-10. As Daniel was taken into Babylonian captivity he was put to the test. Nebuchadnezzar demanded that the best of the Hebrews men be selected to be reeducated and to be put on a different diet. He wanted them to conform to the “Babylonian way.” But Daniel determined “not to defile himself” (v. 8). Daniel wasn’t belligerent, but he was determined to keep himself holy. This was his minor act of rebellion that ended up having a major impact.
The same is true for us. We do not respond to secular culture in anger. But we must be determined in keeping our convictions. To live the Christian life is to live a life of tender conviction, love and truth, determination, and mercy. We must not keep our commitments secret, but live them out with compassionate conviction.
A test passed (Daniel 1:11-16). And the tests will come, just as they did for Daniel and his three Hebrew friends — Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Daniel’s test came in the form of diet. This may not seem like much to us, but food in Daniel’s day may have represented a form of idol worship that Daniel wanted nothing to do with.
The food that was offered to Daniel may not have only represented a form of idol worship but was symbolic of the appetite as well. Daniel wanted to keep his appetites under control. The world will tempt us through our appetites — physical, spiritual, sexually, and mentally (Genesis 3:6-7). We must keep our appetites under control as we live lives of holiness and purity.
A recognized difference (Daniel 1:17-21). Did they pass the test? Yes, at the end of 10 days the men of God were found to be “10 times better than all the magicians and mediums in his entire kingdom” (Daniel 1:20).
How did this happen? Verse 17 notes that “God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom.” Further, God gave Daniel the ability to understand dreams (Daniel 1:17).
The message is clear. Daniel made a difference because God gave him every resource he needed. As we live in a culture that seems to be coming unhinged, we must determine in our hearts that we will serve God. But our determination to live for God is only the beginning. God will give us His wisdom, knowledge, and truth.
Without God’s provisions we fail. So, let us continue to celebrate the goodness of God even when “behind enemy lines.” God will give us the victory. B&R