Faith Away from Home
Text: Daniel 1:1-7
There comes a time in every young person’s life when they eventually leave home. They may leave because of school, work, military service, or any number of reasons. While they were at home, their parents looked after them and encouraged them, sharing all those life lessons that are important: How to care for others, how to take good care of themselves and the things for which they are responsible, and how to be faithful to God. But when our children leave home, we really see the extent of the learning that has taken place. Will they brush their teeth without being told? What if they get sick when they are away from home – who will take care of them? And more importantly, will they remain faithful to God? Will they pray? Will they study their Bible as they ought?
Tonight we are going to take a look at the life a young man who left home. In this particular case it was not a voluntary departure. We are going to be looking at the early years in Daniel’s life. His mother and father would have been proud of the way he lived after he left home. Let’s start our study in Daniel 1:1 this evening.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
In this passage we see King Nebuchadnezzar besieging Jerusalem and carrying off not only items from the temple, but also some of the people from Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar decides to prepare the best of the best of the Hebrew youth for service to him, and so he rounds up all the brightest young men for his “King Nebuchadnezzar scholarship”. It is a full-ride scholarship, including tuition, room and board, and the program lasts 3 years. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah find themselves as unwilling benefactors of this scholarship to Nebuchadnezzar University. They were godly young men headed into university that was anything but godly. The Babylonians were an idolatrous people who did not follow the one true God.
The very first thing that we see from this passage is Daniel’s willingness to be obedient. He did not say, “Well, I am a long way from home, so I guess I can toss all those things that I have been putting up with at home all these years.” Nor did he say, “I am in a tough situation – nobody would expect me to hang on to what I have been taught, now that I have been taken from my home by these heathens!” What we will see in our study this evening is quite the opposite. In fact, Daniel and his friends demonstrated their faithfulness through obedience to the one true God.
Paul told the Corinthians that men would praise God because of their obedience that accompanied their confession of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 we read:
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
And what Paul wrote Titus in chapter 3 verse 1, could just as easily been written to Daniel and to us today:
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
We are called to live obedient lives, and to show our faithfulness through our obedience, just as Daniel did.
King appointed daily food from his table for these young scholars.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
It takes a lot of courage to speak up and say that you are not going to do something that you know is wrong. Daniel knew the king’s food and wine would defile him and his friends, and he did not want any part of it. There is an important point here for us to remember: When we show courage for God, He won’t leave us hanging out without his support. Notice that this passage tells us that “…God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.” As Daniel showed courage, God was right there to help him out – and the same is true for us today. Live a courageous life for God, and he will work in those difficult situations to help us.
Courage is an important attribute in the life of a Christian. In Acts 4:13, after Peter had healed the cripped man and he and John were before the Sanhedrin, we see that their courage was what caused others to see Jesus in them. Courage was evidence of their relationship with Jesus.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Hebrews 3:6 tells us “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” Each of us needs to be courageous, to stand up for what we know to be right. Not only will God help us, but it will help others see Jesus in us. We have to hold on to our courage, live faithfully through courage, just as Daniel did.
In this passage in Daniel, we see that Daniel “made up his mind” not to eat the king’s food – he made a personal commitment to doing what was right. Some people think that the king’s food was not kosher. The word “kosher” is from the Hebrew word that means “fit to eat.” It meant that the food is free from impurities and is ceremonially proper for Hebrews to eat. The discussion of what was “kosher” takes us to Leviticus 11, where we find the food laws of the Old Testament. The main food we think of as being unclean is pork, but other types of meat could not be eaten. If this food that Daniel was asked to eat was not kosher, then Daniel, being a loyal Hebrew, would have regarded it as wrong for him to eat it. Jewish food laws did not place any restrictions on wine, but somehow Daniel may have thought that this wine was not kosher. Perhaps he thought it was not prepared properly. Among stricter Jews, not only did the food have to be the right food, but it also had to be prepared in a specific way. Among other things, it could not have touched anything unclean. Strict Jews follow the same rules today. Daniel resolved in his heart to abide by his diet. He was faithful to keep that resolve, living faithfully through self discipline.
Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 that we were not given a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. In Titus 1:8 we read that living a disciplined life is one of the qualities that should be seen in the life of an elder. God expects us to live disciplined lives, just as Daniel demonstrated in the face of those who were undisciplined at Nebuchadnezzar University. We must live faithfully through discipline regardless of how those around us may be living.
When Daniel spoke to Nebuchadnezzar’s official regarding the food he wanted to eat, this official was hesitant. What would the king say if these bright young men looked ratty and haggard compared with the other young men? Daniel was confident that God would help him, and he suggested an experiment to the official. “Let’s just try it for 10 days, and see how it goes. We will go vegetarian during that time, and then we will see how we look in comparison with the other young men.”
The Hebrew word here is translated in the King James Version as “pulse”. The word is zay-RO-ah, and it was basically grain. This would have been a good low sodium and low fat diet. We see how the experiment went, beginning in verse 15:
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
Daniel and his friends would not eat that which would defile them according to the law of Moses. Their confidence in God and His law was well founded.
We should have confidence in God today as well. In Hebrews 4:16, the writer tells us:
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
And, 1 John 5:14-15 also tells us that we must have confidence when we approach God:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
Let’s commit to living a life of faithfulness through our confidence in God and his ability and willingness to see us through anything.
Daniel lived a faithful life in God, even though he was hundreds of miles away from home, and living among ungodly people. His faith brought obedience to God, courage, discipline, and confidence. Many believe that Daniel was as young as 14 at this time, yet he had a faith that challenges us who are much older.
And speaking of those of us who are older – we should not take this lesson this evening as a message that is targeted only to those outward bound young people here in the front of the building. All of us will find ourselves in situations where we are a long way from home for one reason or another. Will we be faithful to God through our obedience to Him? Will we demonstrate the courage that Daniel had, knowing that God will help us? Will we lead a life of self-discipline, keeping ourselves pure and holy for God? And will we have an undying confidence in God and his ability to care for us each day? I hope that will be true for each of us, just as it was true for Daniel and his friends.
This evening we extend God’s invitation to anyone who needs a stronger faith in God. Perhaps you have not begun your walk with Him, or you have travelled a long way and have found yourself distanced from God because your faith has not remained strong. If there is any way that we can strengthen or pray for you this evening, won’t you come as we stand together and sing.