Stephen Caswell © 1999
Integrity - The Honest Lawyer
Recently, Dr Howard Hendricks was walking the streets in San Mateo, a small town on the San Francisco peninsula. He met an attorney he knew from a local evangelical church. He said to him, "What are you doing?" The attorney said, "I'm looking for a job." Howard Hendricks replied, "You've got to be kidding." The attorney said, "No, last week I walked out the front door of that corporation and told them, 'You can hang it on your beak. I'm no longer going to write contracts that you and I both know are illegal and illegitimate.'" That man is regarded as one of the top five corporate lawyers in America, and he's unwilling to sell his value system for a mess of pottage. We need more lawyers like that man. Howard Hendricks, "Beyond the Bottom Line,"
In today's western society there is a complete lack of integrity. Honest people are hard to find. More than ever the world needs to see Christians who will live a life that is distinctive. A life that demonstrates spiritual power. Daniel and his three friends were men of spiritual power. They showed real integrity at a time when Israel's spiritual life was at an all time low. In today's passage we see the beginning of their story. They were only youths when taken captive to Babylon. But even though they were young they demonstrated great courage and steadfast faith in God. They were committed to God no matter what! Today we will observe two different philosophies seeking to impact these young men. Today's sermon is under two points:
I. The King's Plan
II. Daniel's Purpose
King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the land of Judah because God had delivered it into his hand. He carried away much booty including some articles from the Lord's house. He also gave orders for some of the nobles and kings children to be brought to Babylon. He had a purpose for them. Firstly we will see:
I. The King's Plan
Daniel 1:3-4 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
The king wanted intelligent, good looking young men who could learn quickly. He wanted men who could serve him. Nebuchadnezzar drew on the wisdom of other cultures to strengthen his own kingdom. He was looking for the best, the cream of the crop. So he asked his chief servant to find such men from among the Jewish nobility. He would then prepare them for service in his court. These youths would be trained for three years and then presented to the king. What did this royal training involve? I would like to suggest that it had at least three sides to it.
It involved Mental Preparation, Physical Preparation and Spiritual Preparation. Although some of these areas overlapped.
a. Mental Preparation
King Nebuchadnezzar arranged for the education of these young men at the royal school of Babylon. They were taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans were the wise men of the day. Their educational program probably included the study of agriculture, architecture, astrology, astronomy, mathematics and law. This would have been an intense training program. The training period was for three years. This education comprised a mixture of practical knowledge and Babylonian mysticism. Much of this teaching would have been contrary to their own religious beliefs. After their education was completed the king appointed them to positions in his government. Have you been taught things contrary to God's word at school or university? What do you do when teachers ridicule your Christian beliefs? Daniel faced this!
b. Physical Preparation
Daniel 1:5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.
To start with the youths chosen were good looking young men. We are told that they had no blemish or physical defect. Probably they came from Queensland. The king wanted to improve on this so he provided them with food from the royal table. Their diet would have been exquisite. They would have eaten the best meats and tasted the finest of wines. The king provided this no doubt as an incentive to excel in their training. He probably believed that it would also enhance their physical appearance. After all shouldn't good food make people healthier? And these youths were given the best food that was available, food that the king ate.
c. Spiritual Preparation
Daniel 1:6-7 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
You might think that verses 6 and 7 are very insignificant. After all what's in a name? But in ancient times a person's name described his character. When the chief eunuch gave these youths new names it was very significant. Daniel's name means My Judge is God. He was given the Babylonian name of Belteshazzar, which means, Lady protect the king. Hananiah means Yahweh has been gracious. He was renamed Shadrach which means, I am fearful of god. The god referred to is Aku the Elamite moon god. Mishael means, Who is what God is. His new name was Meshach which means, Who is what Aku is. Aku was a pagan god. Azariah means Yahweh has helped. He was named Abed-Nego, meaning, Servant of Nebo a Babylonian god. Daniel and his three friends had been given names that glorified God by their parents. Their parents feared the Lord and passed on a Godly heritage. Babylon sought to change this.
The eunuch changed their names in an attempt to transfer their religious allegiance from the Lord to his Babylonian gods. This was done to help them fit in at Babylon. Babylon had been the center of pagan religions since Nimrod and the tower of Babel. The kings training for these nobles was very comprehensive. It affected every area of life. He wanted his servants to be loyal to both himself and his pagan gods. Did Daniel and his friends have to give up their religious heritage? How could they disobey the kings commands? All the rest went along with it!
Today's society seeks to shape us into its mold. The media challenges everything we believe in and exalts its own philosophy. Schools and universities teach their religious philosophy under the guise of education. How do you respond to such indoctrination? False cults and religions seek our allegiance. Compromise is the order of the day. How do you stand true to the Lord when everyone else is joining in ? Society and our peers place pressure on us to conform to their standards. Advertisers tell us what to eat and drink to be healthy and happy. They encourage us to drink and smoke. Pressure is exerted on us to take drugs and indulge in immoral practices. Can we say no to such pressure to conform? Won't this hinder our future opportunities to succeed? I suggest that we closely look at Daniel's response to the same trials. He gives us a good example to follow. Now we will look at:
II. Daniel's Purpose
Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Boldness - Politically Correct Thanks
In today's politically correct environment where you have to be so careful to keep from offending anyone, we might be tempted to give reports like this American fourth grader who reported on the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday. "The pilgrims came here seeking freedom of you know what. When they landed, they gave thanks to you know who. Because of them, we can worship each Sunday, you know where." Daniel didn't worry about offending the establishment like that. He shared his religious convictions with boldness in the Lord.
Verse 8 starts with but Daniel. Daniel learned of the kings commands but chose to be faithful to the Lord his God. He purposed in his heart not to defile himself. And God honored his decision. The word purposed means to be determined, steadfast, committed, turn over completely. Daniel made up his mind to do what was right no matter what. He feared the Lord more than the king. And the Lord took care of Daniel and his three friends because they put Him first. He took care of their training. The Lord in fact prepared them for His service in the court of Babylon. Although Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Babylonian empire, The Lord was the King that they really served. God's training for them was fourfold, Spiritual, Social, Physical and Mental.
The first quality that Daniel possessed was: a. Spiritual Attractiveness
Daniel put spiritual things first. Daniel purposed not to defile himself with the kings food. He put God first. But how could the king's food defile Daniel? Wasn't Daniel going over the top on this issue? Weren't they behaving like fanatics? After all its only food isn't it? No it wasn't. The Jews had received strict dietary laws written in the book of Leviticus. Certain foods were unclean and could not be eaten. They were also forbidden to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. In Babylon most meat was sacrificed to pagan gods first. God had forbidden Israel from eating such food as this would lead them into idolatry. Exodus 34:14-15 for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, “lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, Daniel chose to serve only the Lord.
Jews were also forbidden from drinking strong drink. Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. Daniel and his three friends chose to please God on this issue and not bow down to the desires of the king and his stewards. They didn't submit to the peer pressure of their contemporaries. They did what they knew was right. They put their spiritual life first and trusted God to help them. Daniel requested from the chief eunuch an exemption from eating the king's delicacies and his wine. God used this test to develop Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael spiritually. Daniel was spiritually disciplined.
Discipline - No Loose Strings
We must face the fact that many today are notoriously careless in their living. This attitude finds its way into the church. We have liberty, we have money, we live in comparative luxury. As a result, discipline practically has disappeared. What would a violin solo sound like if the strings on the musician's instrument were all hanging loose, not stretched tight, not "disciplined"? Are you disciplined spiritually? Is God first in your life? Do you avoid defilement? " Eric Liddel "
b. Social Proficiency
Daniel 1:9-14 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.” So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. “Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
Verse 9 tells us that God had brought Daniel into favor with the chief eunuch. He liked Daniel and listened to his request. Daniel was wise enough to approach him in a gracious manner and present his case. He shared his religious convictions. He shared his faith in God. He didn't just go on a hunger strike. However the eunuch was concerned that the appearance of Daniel and his friends would be worse after eating such a diet. The king would hold him responsible. The eunuch was afraid that he would lose his life for disobeying the kings orders.
Again Daniel showed great wisdom by suggesting a test for ten days. The eunuch would give them vegetables and water for ten days and then examine them and the other youths. Ten days could not do much harm one way or the other. He could then decide if this diet had an adverse effect or not. The eunuch consented to this trial lasting ten days. God taught Daniel and his friends how to relate to people. He helped them to develop socially. Do you show Social Proficiency in your life? Are you wise and gracious when sharing your spiritual convictions? Do you explain to your boss why you can't do certain things because of your relationship with God? Or do you just say I don't drink or smoke? We should use such tests as opportunities to share our faith in God. Or do you expect them to understand without giving a reason for your position? We need to follow Daniel's example! We need Social Proficiency.
c. Physical Competence
Daniel trusted God to honor their faith and obedience. He believed that God would preserve their health. What happened after the ten days were up? What was the result of the test? Daniel 1:15-16 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. They looked healthier than those who ate the kings delicacies and drank his wine. God honors those who honor him. Often Christians think they have to compromise their faith. But they don't. God will help us if we are willing to trust Him. Daniel and his three friends honored God. They graciously requested exemption from the king's food. Then they wisely suggested a test to show it would be okay. And God blessed them. Are you struggling with peer pressure to conform to the world's standards? Do people put pressure on you to drink or smoke? Then think again. God blesses those who honor Him. God helped them grow. They had Physical Competence.
d. Mental Sharpness.
Under God's care Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah developed mentally. The Babylonian school where they trained sought to indoctrinate them. They tried to impose on them the Babylonian way of thinking. They tried to change their allegiance to the King and his gods. These young Jews may have been taught at the royal school of Babylon but God overruled it all. This was because they had purposed in their hearts to serve the Lord. Their faith in God had first priority in their lives. So God granted them discernment. How did they turn out after three years at a pagan school? Daniel and his three friends had come through with flying colors. Daniel 1:17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
Knowledge - Knowledge Isn't That Bad
Scripture nowhere condemns the acquisition of knowledge. It is the wisdom of this world, not its knowledge, that is foolishness with God. -- H. A. Ironside, Lectures on Colossians. Daniel and his three friends gained real knowledge and wisdom because they committed their hearts to God. They gained their knowledge without doubting or compromising their faith in God. These men excelled in the best possible way.
God gave these faithful youths wisdom and knowledge that they might serve Him in the king's court. He was the one who gave them wisdom and understanding. They had in fact developed spiritually, socially, physically and mentally. Yet they attained this without compromise. Because they remained faithful, God kept them pure and undefiled. This training program had thus prepared them for future use in God's service. After all they were first and foremost God's servants despite all attempts to change their allegiance. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah proved that you can stand for what is right. You don't have to compromise your faith. God blesses people who honor Him. Are you compromising your faith at work in order to be promoted? Have you accepted the lies put forward at college or university? Do you doubt the Bible because a professor says so? Are you bowing down to peer pressure so that you will fit in? Then can I encourage you to look at Daniel and see how God blesses faithful servants.
The Lord Jesus also developed this way. Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. What did the king think of these uncompromising youths? He was more impressed with them then all the ones who had compromised along the way. Daniel 1:18-20 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. The king found them to be the better than all the wise men and magicians in his realm. This proves that God's ways are better than man's ways. It proves that Christians don't need to compromise. It proves that God honors those who honor Him. Will you purpose in your heart to serve the Lord? Will you take an uncompromising stand on your faith?
The king had plans for Daniel and his three friends. They were confronted by a pagan philosophy. The royal school of Babylon sought to shape their religious beliefs. This would impact on their spiritual, social, physical and mental development. How did Daniel and his friends resist such an enormous challenge? By purposing in their hearts not to defile themselves. They would serve God no matter what. Have you made such a resolution in your life? Do you fear God more than man? Do you allow alcohol to weaken your Christian witness? Do you overindulge in food? Do you explain why you don't drink or smoke? Have you allowed your education to weaken your faith in God? Are you defiled by the television set or the corruption of rock music? Have you compromised your Christian beliefs to go further in your job? If so you need to confess it. When believers seek God's will for their life. When they keep themselves from defilement, He blesses them for it. God can help you to develop Spiritual Attractiveness, Social Proficiency, Physical Competence and Mental Sharpness. Will you put God first? Will you allow Him to make your life distinctive? Will you dare to be a Daniel? I pray that you will!
Benediction Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.