Summary: Daniel and his friends were able to stand without compromise in a hostile environment. How were they able to do so and what lessons can we apply today?
(I started at the back of the church so there was an empty stage as I described the takeover) Imagine that is this time of global political unrest, a nation such as Iran or Iraq conquered America. They choose the best and the brightest and take our entire church back to their nation to begin the process of indoctrination. They force you to learn their customs, eat their foods, follow their religion- denounce your faith. What do you do?
Listen to these words- Read Daniel 1:1-7
The youth group has been studying the lives of Daniel and his friends. Four young men, removed from their homes, their country even, left with nothing but their God and each other. The example they set of living their faith with no compromise has been encouragement for us all, so I wanted to share some of the lessons we learned this summer.
Our first lesson is that God’s way is superior. King Nebuchadnezzar has conquered Israel and selected the best and the brightest of the young men to be carried off to Babylon to serve him. For three years they are to be taught the literature and language while being fed from the king’s table. The idea was to basically indoctrinate them so they’d lose their old identity and become just like the Babylonians. But we’re told that Daniel refuses to defile himself with the king’s food, he’s determined to maintain his diet given to the Israelites by God Himself. He approaches the chief of the eunuchs, who is sympathetic to Daniel’s cause but is more concerned that the king might have his head for allowing this. Not giving up, Daniel proposes a 10 day clinical trial to the steward who was under the chief and he agrees. At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and his friends are in better shape than all the other young men, so they were allowed to continue. Listen to the results- read Daniel 1:17-20. God’s way is superior.
Our second lesson is that God gives us insight to the truth. King Nebuchadnezzar is disturbed by a dream and calls for his advisors to interpret it for him. My guess is there’ve been times where the king felt like these advisors were feeding him a line, so he added a twist. Before they could provide an interpretation, they had to tell him what he had dreamed or they would all die. Since none of them could do this, the guards begin to round up all the advisors, including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel asks that the king appoint a time and he will bring the interpretation. He then gathers his friends and they pray to God for an answer, which He provides. The appointed time from the king arrives and here’s what happened- read Daniel 2:26-30. Daniel gives credit where credit is due, then proceeds to share the dream God has revealed to him. The king dreamed of a frightening statue, its head was made of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, and its legs of iron with clay mixed into the iron feet. A stone that was not of human making smashed the statue then becomes a mountain over the entire earth. We know that this dream came true- each part representing a worldly kingdom- the Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The stone represents the kingdom of God, ushered in by Jesus. The king is impressed and rewards Daniel with a promotion. Daniel puts in a good word for his friends and they get promoted too, all because God gives us insight to the truth.
Our third lesson is that God is the only God to be worshiped, no matter the consequence. The king built a statue 90 feet tall (9 story building), gathers all the regional leaders, and commands them to bow down as a variety of instruments are played. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse, so the king calls them in and here’s what happens- read Daniel 3:13-18. Their refusal to obey infuriates the king who has the furnace turned up to 7 times as hot and has the men thrown in. It was so hot, the guards who were tossing them in died. The king is astounded because having thrown three men in, he now sees four, and the fourth has the appearance of a son of the gods. The king calls them out and finds that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are unharmed- no burn marks, neither their hair or clothes are singed, they don’t even smell of the smoke one would normally associate with being around a fire. They were protected because they would only worship God no matter what.
Our fourth lesson is that God will humble those who stand in pride against Him. King Nebuchadnezar has another dream, this time of a majestic tree that provides shade for all the beasts of the air and its branches provide a home for all kinds of birds of the air. But then a Watcher (like an angel) comes down and orders the tree to be chopped down and the stump bound with iron and bronze. It declares that his (the king’s) hair should be wet with the dew, his mind transformed to that of a beast, and he would live in the fields for seven years, eating grass like an ox. Daniel warns the king that the dream is about him, that God is warning him about his pride, and he’d better repent of his sin and begin living right. The king ignores the warning and a year later the dream is fulfilled. As the king is walking on the roof of his palace, he declares what a mighty kingdom he has built for himself. Immediately, a voice comes from heaven declaring the king’s exile. His mind was transformed to that of a beast, he lived out in the fields where he ate grass and soaked up the dew of heaven. His hair grew out to appear as feathers and his finger and toe nails were like bird claws. He lived like this for seven years before he came to his senses. Here’s what the king had to say about the matter- read Daniel 4:34-35. God humbles those who stand in pride against Him.