A Christian in a Non-Christian World - Part 2
good to it; yet he still had to sift through the good and the bad, to distinguish the true from the false. We see evidence of this in later chapters of the book of Daniel. He could also accept the name change because one could change his name but not his heart. Changing his name could not alter the fact that his name was written in the God’s Book of Life as a child of the true King.
But Daniel said no to the third, accepting the king’s food and drink. He purposed in his heart (v.8; literally “to set upon his heart”; “resolved” in the NIV and “made up his mind” in the NASB) not “to pollute with an ugly stain” (defile) his life with Nebuchadnezzar’s culinary delicacies. What was the “big deal” about the food? .
Nebuchadnezzar had made abundant provision for the captives. Theirs was a life of luxury, not deprivation, for they were given a portion of food and wine daily from the king’s own table. However, this food did not conform to the requirements of the Mosaic Law. The fact that it was prepared by Gentiles rendered it unclean. Also no doubt many things forbidden by the Law were served on the king’s table, so to partake of such food would defile the Jewish youths. Further, without doubt this royal food had been sacrificed and offered to pagan gods before it was offered to the king. To partake of such food would be contrary to Exodus 34:15, where the Jews were forbidden to eat flesh sacrificed to pagan gods.
Similar problems would arise in drinking the wine. To abstain from the Old Testament prohibition against ”strong drink“ (e.g., Prov. 20:1, kjv; Isa. 5:11, ”drinks“), Jews customarily diluted wine with water. Some added 3 parts of water to wine, others 6 parts, and some as much as 10 parts of water to 1 part of wine. The Babylonians did not dilute their wine. So both the food and the drink would have defiled these Jewish young men. Daniel knew the requirements of the Law governing what he should and should not eat and drink. Daniel knew that entering into the
A Christian in a Non-Christian World – Part 2
Introduction: Do you ever think that the system of this world is out to brainwash you; that the circumstances in which you find yourself are overwhelming; that the things you are exposed to are in absolute contrast to your values? Perhaps that is what the young teenage lad named Daniel felt as he was taken hostage by Nebuchadnezzar from his beloved Jerusalem to diabolical Babylon. As we saw the last time we were together, Daniel was subjected to the same type of brainwashing we are today; only we are not captive in a foreign land. We learned in Daniel 1:1-4, that Nebuchadnezzar had a three fold strategy to turn Daniel and his friends into Chaldeans by reeducating, reorienting, and redefining their lives. An attempt was made to assimilate them into the culture of the court for they were compelled to learn both the language and the literature of the people among whom they now dwelt. They were to undergo a rigorous three-year course of training after which they were to enter the king’s service.
The Brain Washing Strategy (v.4-7): The young Judean hostages were subjected to an entire reeducational process (v.4). 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. But also they were subjected to a reorientation of their life style by having to eat the king’s choice food and wine from which he drank (v.5). By beginning to feed them the very best food and drink, they would develop a sense of obligation and expand their perspective of life that was different from their heritage. They were to be seduced by lifting up their standard of living where Nebuchadnezzar wanted it to be so that they would never want to go back to their former life style. After all, why would they want to go back to Jerusalem when they had seen Babylon? Or as we would state it today, how can you keep them on the farm when they have seen Paris?
Nebuchadnezzar’s plan was to reeducate by teaching them heathen wisdom, reorient by feeding them heathen food, but there was one more element needed to complete their preparation for service in his court – redefine who they were. This was to be accomplished by giving them new names. Once their training was complete, these members of Judean royalty could be used to help assure Judah’s continued submission to Babylon or to prepare them to fulfill positions of administrative leadership there if Nebuchadnezzar should have to return to subjugate Judah.
Of the many young men taken captives only four are mentioned here by name because of their later significant role in Babylon. Because all four bore names that honored Yahweh, the God of Israel, their names were changed. El means God and -iah (or -yah) is an abbreviation for Yahweh, thus suggesting that the young men’s parents were God-fearing people who gave them names that included references to God. Explain godly influence by their parents – Godly education at home, etc. The changing of names was a common practice instituted to force a person to forget their roots, their heritage, and their identity. Such was the case when Pharaoh renamed Joseph in Genesis 41:45. Nebuchadnezzar employed the same technique for the same reason. Daniel and his friends received genuine heathen names in exchange for their own significant names, which were associated with that of the true God. The names given to them were formed partly from the names of Babylonish idols, in order that thereby they might become wholly naturalized, and become estranged at once from the religion and the country of their fathers.
Daniel, whose name means ”God has judged“ (or ”God is my Judge“), was given the name Belteshazzar, which means “May the Lady protect the king.”, a reference to Beltis, wife of the god Bel. Hananiah (”Yahweh has been gracious“ or “the Lord is gracious”) became Shadrach probably from the Akkadian verb form meaning, ”I am fearful of a god”, as a deliberate pejorative variation of Marduk, god of Babylon. It is a name derived from “Aku” or “Marduk”, the chief Babylonia god. Mishael (”Who is what God is?“) was given the name Meshach, which possibly was from the Akkadian verb meaning ”I am despised, contemptible, or “I have become weak and humbled before my god, Aku.” Azariah (”Yahweh has helped“ or “the Lord is my helper”) was named Abednego, ”Servant of Nebo“ (Nego being a Hebrew. variation of the Babylonian name of the god Nebo). Nebo (Isaiah. 46:1), son of Bel, was the Babylonian god of wisdom, writing and vegetation. He was also known as Nabu. Incidentally, Nebuchadnezzar means ”Nabu has protected my inheritance.“ Thus the chief court official, Ashpenaz, (v. 3) seemed determined to obliterate any testimony to the God of Israel from the Babylonian court. The names he gave the four teenagers signified that they were to be subject to Babylon’s gods (v.7).
How did Daniel respond to this set of unusual circumstances? There is much for us to learn from these teenagers about our being a Christian in an un-Christian world, by living a separated life.
Characteristics of a Separated Life: A non compromising spirit (v.8-10): Daniel was subjected to a well thought out, pre determined brainwashing plan to assimilate him into the heathen culture of the Babylonians. He was exposed to a reeducation (heathen wisdom), reorientation (heathen food), and redefining (heathen names) process.
He accepted two of the three but did not accept or compromise the third. He could accept the education because it had some
world’s life style would corrupt faster than the world’s education; but his decision was not based upon logic.
Daniel’s desire was to please God in all he did. So he resolved that even though he was not in his own land but in a culture that did not follow God’s laws, he would consider himself under the Law.Compromise always seems easy. No one would be harmed if Daniel and his friends decided to “fit in” at the royal school. Why make an issue of something as morally neutral as diet? What kind of witness would it be to make a fuss about something pagans might think of as foolish? Besides, couldn’t they do more for God if they went along and won a high position in government? Take a stand now, and they might never get another opportunity!
Such thoughts probably crossed Daniel’s mind. But Daniel did the wise and right thing. He made doing what God said his first priority. No rationalization can justify disobedience. This is the first thing any Christian who wishes to live a godly life in a non-Christian society must realize.
Daniel’s appeal to be given nothing but vegetables and water is not evidence of a vegetarian commitment. Moses’ dietary laws forbade Jews to eat the meat of “unclean” animals (Lev. 11; Deut. 14). The only way the young men could be sure of having a truly kosher diet was to avoid all meat. Some have also noted that most meat in pagan societies came from animals which had first been dedicated to some deity. The decision to avoid meat may also have reflected the young Jews’ rejection of idolatry.
He therefore asked the chief court official to be excused from eating and drinking the food and wine generously supplied by the king. Daniel was courageous, determined, and obedient to God. Daniel drew the line based upon what the Word of God (Law) said; for God had given strict prohibitions on what a Jew could eat or drink. (See Lev. 11:44-47).
Conclusion: Like Daniel, we must draw the line where the Word of God draws them – that is the characteristic of an uncompromising spirit. We may not always be politically correct but we must be biblically correct to live a separated life. Where there is a specific biblical mandate, draw the line – don’t compromise. Next week, I’ll give you many reasons why Daniel could have compromised but didn’t as we continue to learn from this young man of conviction.