November 5, 2019 | by: Tony Sanelli | 0 comments
There were many things done to Daniel and his young friends that he simply could not protest against. What could he say or do about being conquered and carried away to a foreign land? What could he do about being renamed and forcibly reeducated in all things Babylonian? But then we read that he “resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8).
We cannot be exactly sure why this was where Daniel decided to “draw the line” in the sand. Was the food not Kosher? But the Mosaic law did not prohibit eating meat or drinking wine. Besides, Daniel later notes that he did eat meat and wine in Babylon (10:2-3). Could it be that the food and wine was sacrificed to idols? This was clearly out of bounds, but the same would have been true of the vegetables.
Some scholars point to the significance of sharing in meals in the ancient world. This created a symbolic visible bond between host and guest. This could easily have symbolized “covenant loyalty” to the king in everyone’s eyes. In addition, receiving the king’s food was also imbibing the “good life” being offered to him as a servant of king Nebuchadnezzar. Would he slowly become desensitized by such rich fair? Either way, Daniel chose to bury his flag here as a way to signal to others and to himself that he was devoted to his God and not to the king.
Christians also need to think through how we can preserve some indication of a distinctive life as followers of Jesus. But I want to draw our attention to the fact that this was an inner resolution of Daniel’s heart and mind before he ever decided to do anything. It was formed in connection with his biblical convictions about holiness and living for the glory of God. Some scholars believe Daniel is the author of Psalm 119. In verse 173 we read, “Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.” This aptly captures the spirit of Daniel’s predetermined devotion to the Lord and his hope in God’s aid.
The apostle Peter would later write that Christians, also aliens living in exile, are to have a similar inner resolution of the heart in order to be best prepared to explain the hope we possess. The early Christians faced the possibility of a violent persecution of their Christian faith, but Peter calls them to remain steadfast:
“… Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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…”
1 Peter 3:14–15 (ESV)
Like Peter’s 1st century believers, Daniel was also giving public profession of his faith at his time in Babylon, if only to the king’s servant and other student exiles. And also like so many challenged to stand fast after him, fear was surely a part of his experience at that moment. Going against the flow in Babylon could cost you your head! This took tremendous courage. Considering the connection between Daniel and Peter’s epistle, John Lennox asks,
“What was it that strengthened the hearts and minds of Daniel and his friends, so that they had courage to overcome a natural fear of the unknown? It was surely the fact that they had set God apart as holy in their hearts. They had made God sole director of their lives. That is exactly what Peter says we’re to do.”
Peter knew the paralysis of fear. He was gripped with it when confronted on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Huddled by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest’s house he failed miserably at the very exhortations he later would pen: he feared, he was unprepared to give a defense, and he denied Christ three times, swearing with oaths that he was no disciple of Christ (Luke 22:61), thus dishonoring His name. However, the Lord was gracious to His beloved friend, who in his weakness needed God’s redemption, Christ’s forgiveness, and His Spirit to kindle in his new heart the courage and faith to follow Him well. This Christ accomplished for him through His death and resurrection.
I admit at times in my life I have been both. But the Lord can take our disloyalty in the face of pressures to compromise our faith and turn our cowardice into convictions. Deciding where to draw the line can sometimes lead to inner turmoil and paralysis especially when having to make a quick or public decision. There is the strong undercurrent of expectation to “fit-in” with the worldly direction of the culture. But the settled conviction and courage to draw the line can become clearer if one has already determined that Christ is Lord and you want to live for him. Daniel loved the Lord, and had made his decision to resist the king’s subjugation by standing upon the foundation of his faith—God Himself. Peter, says Edmond Clowney, “had lost the fear of men by gaining the fear of the risen Lord. He had set apart Christ as Lord, in his heart” (The Message of 1st Peter, pg. 146). The Lord offers Himself to us too, beloved, as the Rock upon which we can stand in each of our daily situations, reflections, and choices. And that Rock is Christ who, though faced with our temptations to crumble, withstood and was faithful for us, triumphing on our behalf.
Today, we hold onto Christ. Living as we do in our progressively hostile culture, we will also have to say no to the king’s food. We will need to prayerfully guard and treasure our loyalty and commitment to Christ while reaching out to a world who needs His love. This will require constant submission of our hearts to Jesus as our Lord, turning to Him for our steadfastness in the faith. When we draw near to Him for these things, Christ’s resolve becomes ours. Let us seek Him, my friends, for this grace.
Tony Sanelli is a Pastor Teacher at Grace Bible Church
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