A Christian in a Non Christian World - Part 1
until he could return to Jerusalem and finish his conquest. The hostages were from the royal family and princely nobility of Judah; they were some of their finest young men. Historians indicate that the actual number of hostages was between 50-75
Nobles because Nebuchadnezzar wanted to train them in the matters of court so they could administer Jewish affairs once the entire land were made a servile state to Babylon. Such were the unusual circumstances in which these teenage young men found themselves.
The word “youths” in verse 4 describe a person 13-17, most often between the ages of 12 – 14. Daniel was a teenage lad thrown into the worst of possible environments, removed from his family, his friends, and his country, but not form his God. He and his friends were youths with no physical blemishes or handicaps, they had good-looking features, and they were highly intelligent with the ability to apply truth by correlating information to make proper decisions. They also possessed social graces (v.4). Interesting how when the world looks at a person’s qualification; they look at the physical, the mental, and the social – just like Nebuchadnezzar. Things haven’t changed much. But for Daniel, there was more. Nebuchadnezzar’s plan was to brainwash his hostages through a three-fold strategy to remove their Godly value system and replace it with a heathen one, consistent with Chaldean society. They were to be reeducated through heathen wisdom, redefined by the giving of heathen names, and reoriented in their life style by providing them with heathen food. Their education included literature or languages of the Chaldeans consisting of the old language of Babylonia, 2 dialects of Samaria and the Hittites; they were to become polyglots (language experts). They also learned astronomy, astrology, mathematics, a sexagesal numerical system, natural history, architecture, engineering, mythology, agriculture, magic, music, glass making, and an entire pantheon of deities.
A Christian in a Non-Christian World – Part 1
Introduction: We have just finished studying the book of 1 John and hopefully discovered what is true saving faith and the traits of one truly born of God. Now I would like to have us examine the life of one who lived in a non-Christian world, much like we do today in America to see if we can gain some practical insights as to how we might live in such a world. Thus, I want us to explore the life of Daniel as recorded for us in the first chapter of the book bearing his name. Let me explain why we can learn so much from this young man.
We live in an era of compromise. We follow the path of least resistance so that expedience now has become the cardinal rule for life. Worshipping the god of pragmatism has conditioned many within the Church to operate with the worldly philosophy, “if it works for you, do it.” That which is deemed practical or successful has replaced convictions and conscience. Politicians, businesses, and most Christian organizations do whatever is necessary to get what they want and in some cases are indistinguishable in their methodologies. The “cause of Christ” has been shelved in favor of “the creativity of man.” The holy separation of a people from the delusionary system of the world becomes lost in the quest for pragmatism. Superficiality, not supernaturality has become our identity. Compromise has become a way of life because many do not want to offend when speaking biblical truth or be thought less of when taking a stand against sin that profanes the name of God.
Rather than altering society, the Church has been altered by it; we have become sheep to the world’s system as our shepherd. When the world had its “hippie movement”, the Church responded with its “Jesus movement.” Soon after the advent of the women’s liberation movement, the Church responded with its version – Biblical feminism. Entertainers from both the secular and Christian sides of the industry “cross over” and perform the other’s music rendering neither distinguishable anymore. We now even have our own “Christian rock” and “Christian rap.” In recent years, worship has been designed to make sure people “get a blessing” rather than “to give a blessing”, failing to realize that worship is a verb. The focal point of any worship service, the revelation of God through preaching, has been marginalized. Our church bulletins list worship as being conducted by Praise Teams followed by a sermon, suggesting that worship is over and now you have to listen, which isn’t worship. We can’t seem to understand what it means, “to be in the world but not of the world.” A ship is designed to be in the water but you don’t want to have water in the ship. We have been designed to be in the world but not have the world’s system in us. Tragically, much of Christendom doesn’t know what that means because many have adopted the world’s thought patterns, value systems, attitudes, economics, morality, entertainment, and priorities in favor of political correctness rather than biblical conviction. We have substituted ourselves as the ones who need to be pleased, not God, and as a result, we have learned the art of compromise.
To those who make up the body of Christ, we are called by an uncompromising God who never sets aside truth for the sake of expediency, “to be in the world but not love the world nor the things of the world.” (1 John 2:15). It is in the midst of a compromising world, we are called to be just the opposite. We are called to live a separated life. By that I do not mean that we should go off to some mountaintop and pick lint from our navels while humming some mantra. But I do mean, that our style of life in the midst of the world’s system, a system which we cannot escape nor should we try to, should be recognizably different. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 36, verses 22-27. Please read it and notice the following from verse 23, “I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” “Holy through you before their eyes.” Do you understand the significance of that statement? God has called us to be the means by which He will demonstrate His holiness and prove that He is the Lord. That can’t happen, friends, if we continually compromise and look like the world. People may be attracted to a god of their own imagination but it will certainly not be to the God of biblical revelation if we continue to compromise. I want us to examine the life of a young man who did not compromise as an encouragement for us to be like him. We will study the life of Daniel as recorded for us in Daniel 1.
The Unusual Circumstances (v.1-4): In reading chapter one of Daniel, we first notice that he was thrown into some unusual circumstances (verses 1-4). These events were the first of the three movements of the Babylonian captivity. The Northern kingdom had long gone into captivity and now it was Judah’s turn. The first migration occurred in 605 BC; the second in 597 BC; the third in 588 BC. During the siege of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar’s father died necessitating his immediate return to Babylon. In order to facilitate the takeover of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar left Jehoiakim on the throne as a political figurehead. However, before he left. he brought some valuable articles from the temple in Jerusalem which he placed in the temple of his god in Babylonia. His god may have been Bel, also called Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonians. This would signify the conquest of the God of Judah by the Babylonian deities. If one could steal from another’s god, it validated the power and greatness of the ruler by affirming his power over foreign gods. Because the people of Judah had not learned from previous warnings by the Prophets or by the invasions of the Assyrians, God did not defend the temple. Obviously, He sovereignly permitted the ransacking of the temple as part of the process of teaching His people lessons they had failed to learn.
To insure security in the region and to plan for future governance, Nebuchadnezzar took some hostages to Babylon
The reason I am dwelling on this historical background is to let you see that the world has not changed much. What Nebuchadnezzar was doing to these teenagers is not much different from what the majority of our current educational system, at all levels, does to our young men and women – replace a biblical heritage with Godless, humanistic, atheistic, socialistic information.
Conclusion: Daniels’s unusual circumstances are not really unusual today. We exist in the same kind of environment that Daniel did, the only difference being that we are in a democracy while he was in a dictatorship. But the issue for us as it was for Daniel is not the unusual circumstances but the response to the circumstances that forms our strategy for living. We will continue our exploration of the brain-washing strategy that formed the environment in which teenage Daniel was called to live a life of conviction – not compromise – in our next time of worship together so that we may dare to be like Daniel.