We truly live in an upside down world. Up is down. Wrong is praised. Right is ridiculed. Truth is relative. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. You might think that I am writing about our modern world, and in a way, I am. But, this is the way of the world since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. As the wise man Solomon once wrote, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Daniel lived about 2,600 years ago in a society very similar to the one in which we live today. Daniel was a typical young Jewish kid. He was raised in a good home, by parents who taught the Word of God to him from an early age. Daniel was born in about 620 B.C., roughly 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. When he was about 15 years old, the king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar, attacked Jerusalem and took Daniel as a captive. Daniel spent the rest of his life in Babylon. During those 15 years that Daniel had with his parents, they invested heavily in his spiritual life, teaching him the Word of God. They did such a good job teaching Daniel the Word that once he was removed from their care, he remained faithful to that teaching. Daniel’s given name means “God is my judge”. Upon arriving in Babylon, Daniel’s name was changed to “Belteshazzar”. This new name means “lord protector of life”. In other words, the One, True God who once judged (protected) you no longer can protect you because you have been taken captive. Now, our pagan god will protect you. Give up your God and follow our god. They changed Daniel’s name but they did not change his faith in God. They changed his language, his education, even tried to change his diet.
I. Daniel’s Conviction
Many times, kids are faithful to the Lord while they are under their parents’ authority. Once removed out from under their parents’ authority, many teens and young adults cave to peer pressure. Daniel was different. His faith was genuine.
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. (Daniel 1:8)
Daniel would not defile himself with the king’s unclean (from a Biblical perspective) food. He stood firm on God’s Word. He was not alone. He had a few like-minded friends who remained faithful to God with him. Daniel remained a student of the Word of God all of his life in captivity. He was obedient to God all of his life. Not only was he a good student of the Word and obedient to God, he also taught others to connect with God and be faithful to Him. He proclaimed God to the people in Daniel 1. He proclaimed God to the people and the king in Daniel 2. He proclaimed God to king Darius in Daniel 6. In fact, Daniel served under 4 different kings and 2 different world empires. He was faithful till the end. That faithfulness manifests itself really for the first time here in Daniel 1.
II. Daniel’s Difficult Decision
Daniel was at a crossroads in his life. Everything that he ever knew was changed overnight. This is the moment where Daniel has to choose if he will remain faithful to the Lord or grow bitter with God and walk away. This is where the rubber meets the road in the area of faith. Daniel had a good life up until this moment. He had faithful, God-fearing parents who taught the Word of God to him and modeled a godly lifestyle for him. Then, in the blink of an eye, their influence was gone and as a teen, he had to make some major life decisions. He was forced to learn a new language and culture, both of which were contrary to the way that he was raised. The first major test came in the very beginning of this new life.
9 Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials,
10 and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.”
11 But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,
12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 “Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; 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 their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food.
16 So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables. (Daniel 1)
Not only was Daniel’s life on the line, so were the lives of his friends and the commander. The Lord gave favor to Daniel before the overseer. Daniel, as a teen, had a major influence over the lives of his friends and even this pagan overseer. Daniel took a stand on the promises of God, especially when it was hard and he had to walk contrary to the culture. The Lord blessed Daniel’s faith and he and his friends were given grace that manifested before the overseer and the commander of the officials. Daniel submitted to his name change. He submitted to the new education that he received. He even submitted to the new culture but he refused to disobey God’s Word, even in his submission. What a fantastic example for all followers of Jesus Christ who live in a culture that contradicts the Word of God on a daily basis. The majority of the Jewish captives caved and disobeyed the Word of God. Daniel and his friends took a stand. God honored Daniel and his friends because we remember them and we have no idea who all the ones who caved are. Do you trust God to honor you the way that He honored Daniel and his friends? Are you ready to take a stand on the promises of God in the midst of a culture that mocks the Word of God? Or, are you simply going to go along to get along. The culture promises to respect us if we go along to get along. God promises to respect us if we take a stand on His Word. Which will you choose? From whom do you want respect and honor, the culture or the Lord?
III. Daniel’s Influence
God continues to honor Daniel throughout history. He also honored Daniel immediately among the culture.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.
18 Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service.
20 As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.
21 And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king. (Daniel 1)
Since Daniel was a man who had connected with God and been taught to walk with Him on a daily basis, he was faithful to earthly leadership. This is one of the things that God teaches us when we walk with Him, to be obedient to Him, to be faithful to Him, and to be faithful to our authorities here on the earth. Daniel understood that truth and demonstrated that through his actions. Because of Daniel’s faithfulness, he was recognized by leadership and given responsibilities, position, and authority. Daniel was able to have a positive influence in the lives of others. Because of his choice to obey God, Daniel was allowed to stand before 4 different kings and 2 different empires and share about his God. Isn’t that amazing? God truly does honor those who obey Him by making good choices. In order to obey God, you must know what He wants. If you want to know what God wants then you must open the Bible and begin to study It. As you do, God will show you step by step what His desires are for you. As you get to know God through His Word, He will lead you to godly friends who will influence your life in a positive way and also cause you to be a positive influence in the lives of others. Are you ready to be like Daniel?