Summary: Introduction to the book of Daniel with its historical setting and an application lesson from chapter one on the four Hebrew captives and their diet.
“A Diet for Success”
Text: Daniel 1:1-7
I’m currently reading a new guide or little commentary on the book of Daniel by Michael Whitworth entitled The Derision of Heaven. And we have a copy in the church library if you’re interested. But it struck me how relevant the account of Daniel and his friends is for Christians today. Regrettably, we have relegated the accounts of Daniel and his three friends to chiIdren’s classes while adults have little interest except in trying to decipher the apocalyptic passages of this great book. But I know of no better guidebook for people of faith living in a hostile environment. I know I still have at least three more lessons from our series on Mountain Top Experiences but I want to begin one from Daniel starting with “A Diet for Success.” We’re going to focus on the first chapter of this marvelous book this morning but we’ll start with a little history lesson to put this lesson in perspective. As always, we pray that you’ll open your Bibles as we study together for a few minutes but, more importantly, we hope you’ll search the scriptures daily like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 to make sure I’ve preached the truth from God’s word.
Our reading indicated that there were four young Hebrew men in Babylonian captivity – a captivity foretold for the southern kingdom of Judah by both Isaiah and Jeremiah. So let’s cover the events leading up to their capture. I know this is a very busy timeline but hopefully it will help us visualize some history. First of all, in the upper left-hand corner is 722 B.C. marking the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel with the capture of the capital city of Samaria by the Assyrians. Underneath this event, we see the reign of Hezekiah in Judah from 715-686 B.C. I wish we had more time to discuss this next event but the Assyrian king Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem and King Hezekiah in 701 B.C. Yet the LORD miraculously delivered Judah out of the hands of the Assyrians by destroying their army during the night and Sennacherib returned home to Nineveh. At the time, Hezekiah was deathly sick but the LORD agreed to extend his life by 15 years. In the meantime, the king of Babylon heard of Hezekiah’s illness and sent letters and a present by his envoys. I want us to pick up what happened in 2 Kings 20:13-18 – And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures – the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory – all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.
Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?”
So Hezekiah said, “They came from a far country, from Babylon.”
And he said, “What have they seen in your house?”
So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.”
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ ” When Hezekiah died, he was followed by his son Manasseh on the throne of Judah for 55 years and then by his grandson Amon for two years. Finally, his great-grandson Josiah became king. His reign is in turquoise in the very center of the chart – 639-609 B.C. Josiah was a very good king but, even with all his reforms, God was still very angry with Judah. Turning to this map and the inset on the left, we see a clash of forces at Megiddo. This is where Josiah was killed in battle – a battle of his own choosing, not the LORD’s. Turn with me to 2 Kings 23:29 – In his days Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went to the aid of the king of Assyria, to the River Euphrates; and King Josiah went against him. And Pharaoh Necho killed him at Megiddo when he confronted him. Jehoahaz, Josiah’s son, became king for three months until Pharaoh Necho put him in prison and made Jehoiakim, another of Josiah’s son, king instead. Pharaoh Necho and the Egyptian army were headed north to come to the aid of the Assyrians against the Babylonians under General Nebuchadnezzar, son of the Babylonian king Nabopolassar. In the upper right hand corner of the larger map, we can see where the clash of forces occurred along the banks of the Euphrates River at Carchemish. This is all world history but we want to back it up with the Bible so turn with me to 2 Chronicles 35:20 – a passage parallel to the last verse we read from 2 Kings: After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. And now to Jeremiah 46:1-2 on page 711 of the pew Bibles: The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the nations. Against Egypt.