August 20, 2023

Daniel's 'Not of This World' Example (Daniel 1:8-17)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023) Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Scripture: Daniel 1:8–17

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Children's Lesson (click here) 

I. Your Life in Babylon

As the Apostle Peter wrapped up the letter we call “First Peter”, he made this interesting state-ment to his original readers: “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings...” (5:13) What's puzzling about that statement is that Babylon, that great city of the ancient Near East, was in Peter's day desolate and uninhabited. So what did Peter mean? Most scholars believe Peter was using “Babylon” as a code name for Rome. Like ancient Babylon, Rome was both a city and world-dominating empire, one that often persecuted God's people. The book of the Revelation also seems to use the term “Babylon” in this same way.

What bearing does that have on us today? 1 Peter and Revelation help us understand that Babylon is more than an ancient city. It represents a kind of place; the city of man; humanity organized in opposition to God and his people. In that way, it is synonymous with how Jesus used the term “world” in John 17:16. Speaking of his disciples, Jesus declares, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Jesus and his followers were in the world, but they were not of it; that is, they were not under its sway, committed to its values, or promoting its vices. By God's grace, through the salvation accomplished by Jesus in his death and resurrection, we, by faith, are in Babylon, but not of Babylon. That's good news in light of His Good News. But let's hold on to 1 Peter and use these ideas to dig into our passage this morning. Turn to Daniel 1.


II. The Passage: “Daniel Resolved” (1:8-17)

Since you were already able to read through Daniel 1 in the Reading Plan last week, and given our limited time this morning, we won't read through the entire chapter together. Let's focus instead on verses 8-17. Before we do that, here's what you need to know about the story up to this point. Daniel, a young man, from the tribe of Judah, was exiled from Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 605 BC. Since he was from the upper crust of Jewish society, he, along with many others, were groomed to be advisors and officials. Everywhere they conquered, it seems Babylon wanted to identify the best and the brightest, and indoctrinate them, assimilate them, for the good of the Empire. That's what happened to Daniel.

So like us, Daniel is an exiled servant of God who finds himself in the midst of a worldly king-dom, one that worships false gods, promotes corrupt values, and is bent on conquest and conformity. That was true for Daniel, and it is true for every Christian who has ever lived, across the globe and throughout history. In fact, going back to 1 Peter, the Apostle explicitly refers to disciples of Jesus as “exiles” in 1:1 and 1:17. So if we find ourselves in a similar place as Daniel, what might we be able to learn from him about being in Babylon, but not of Babylon?

Here are at least three things to consider. I hope you will 1) take note of the fact that Daniel took a stand, 2) take note of how Daniel took a stand, and 3) take note of how God blessed Daniel when he took a stand.


1. Daniel Took a Stand (1:8-9)

So when we arrive at verse 8, we find Daniel responding to Ashpenaz, the man who was in charge of this Babylonian assimilation program. What we'll find here is that Daniel is responding to the fact that all the youth were to eat of (1:5) “a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.” This how Daniel responded to that dietary decree. Verses 8-9...

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. [9] And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs...

So Daniel did not simply conform to the Babylonian agenda out of fear. Instead he took a harder path: he took a stand against that agenda. He “resolved that he would not defile himself”. Now, we don't exactly know why Daniel believed he would be defiled by the king's food. The text simply doesn't say. That allotment may have included food forbidden by the Law of Moses (like pork, for example). It may have been connected with idol worship in some way. Or it may have been that Daniel was guarding himself from the temptations to conformity that come with worldly comfort (i.e., food as 'gateway drug' into a Babylonian lifestyle). Again, his reasons are not clear. What is abundantly clear is that Daniel was a man who cared about godly purity (or holiness).

Also notice on which issue Daniel decided to take a stand. There's no mention of Daniel protest-ing the Babylonian name he was given (1:7)(even though 4:8 confirms it included the name of a false god). There's no mention of Daniel protesting the Babylonian learning he would receive over the course of three years. And there's no mention of Daniel rejecting all of it as the oppressive program of a conquering enemy that he had to resist at every turn. But why not?

His confession/prayer in chap. 9 confirms that Daniel knew why he was (why they were) in exile: because of his people's sins, and... he would have known it was God who brought them there; it was God who put him there. Think about this: like the Apostle named Saul, who regularly used the Greek name Paul, and who was conversant in the Greek language and familiar with Greek literature, I believe Daniel understood such things were not contrary to God's word, and could be used by God to help Daniel navigate and serve God effectively in this foreign kingdom.

As those called to serve God in the foreign kingdom of this world, and as those who also under-stand and embrace the sovereignty of God over all things, let us also resolve to walk in purity in the midst of this Babylon. But let's make sure that purity is defined by and our resolutions are informed by the word of God; not taking our stand on anything less. Peter encouraged his readers to this same kind of resolve (1 Peter 2:11)... “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles [!] to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”


2. How Daniel Took a Stand (1:10-16)

So as we saw in verse 9, God blessed Daniel's godly resolve by granting him “favor and com-passion” in the eyes of Ashpenaz (i.e., he wasn't simply beaten for deviating from the program). But listen to how Daniel's decision plays out in verse 10...

...the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” [14] So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. [15] At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. [16] So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Notice that Daniel did not stage a hunger strike. He was not belligerent toward the Babylonians. As chapter 3 will confirm, there would be times when taking a stand meant clear defiance, even of the law of the land. But here Daniel graciously argues for the reasonableness of his resolve. He interacts with his captors with respect, and attempts to demonstrate the merits of his position. If we return to 1 Peter, this sounds a lot like the Apostle's instructions in 3:15–16...

...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, [16] having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.


3. How God Blessed Daniel's Stand (1:17)

And the result of Daniel's resolve to remain pure, the result of his respectful engagement? V. 17,

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

God not only provided the dietary accommodation Daniel sought, but he also caused him and his friends to excel as they were taught over the next three years. And as the book goes on to describe, God gave Daniel something no one else possessed: “understanding in all visions and dreams”. Why were they blessed in this way? For God's glory and the good of his people!


III. He Said “No” to Babylon

If you are a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, then you are an exile in this Babylon. This is not your kingdom. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20, “...our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Our King is coming back! Amen? But until that time, we may be in the world, but we are not of the world. Are you living in light of that fact? Ask yourself, “In what ways am I taking a stand as one of God's exiles? And how am I taking a stand? Like Daniel, or according to the spirit of this age?” Or you may ask, “In what ways/areas do I need to take a stand... that I might walk in purity; in holiness? That I might glorify the God I serve?”

To adapt Paul's words from Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to [Babylon], but be trans-formed by the renewal of your mind...”. That was Daniel's resolution, wasn't it? And in that way, Daniel points us to another Jew from the tribe of Judah, the One of whom Peter wrote, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (2:22) Friends, Jesus Christ said “no” to Babylon, and “yes” to his Father's plan. And that plan was this: “He himself bore our sins [our defilement] in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (2:24) In love, Jesus stood in the place of sinners; for those who never took a stand for God, only for themselves. That's us. So why this gift? That we might now “live for righteousness”; that we might take that stand, through courage from God's Spirit, and with Jesus Christ as our ultimate example. And we do this trusting that God can work through us like he worked through Daniel: to glorify himself in Babylon; that all people, like Babylon's ancient king, “might praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just...” (Daniel 4:37).

other sermons in this series

Aug 27


Aug 13