Summary: Is it your desire to live a life wholly committed to Christ? To live a life of conviction requires commitment. We can learn much from Daniel.
Captives of Our Faith
I never tire of reading and preaching from the “Book of Daniel.” Not only is it one of the best of the Bible’s literary works, but it also appeals to both the historian and the theologian within me. It’s accurate and loaded with countless insights into the way the characters were thinking; their aspirations, trials, disappointments, and successes. It’s the story of an empire builder full of pride and a slave that lived a life without compromise; a willing captive to his God and to his faith.
As we just heard, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had captured Jerusalem and taken Jehoiakim captive along with many of Israel’s prominent nobles. The captives included the finest and brightest young men of Judah. These were taken back to Babylon as slaves. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Each was from a royal family and merely teenagers at the time.
Nebuchadnezzar was a shrewd political leader. By carrying off the children of nobles, he reduced the chances of future rebellions among the nations he conquered. At the same time, he also increased his own resources of knowledgeable servants.
Among the first things Nebuchadnezzar did was to change his servants’ names. The Hebrew name “Daniel” means “God Is My Judge.” His Babylonian name became Belteshazzar which means, “Lady Protect the King.” This refers to the goddess Sarpanitu, the goddess wife of Marduk. The name Hananiah means “The Lord Is Gracious.” Hananiah’s Babylonian name Shadrach means, “I Am Fearful of the god.” The name Azariah means “The Lord Has Helped Me,” and he was called,
“Abed-Nego” which means, “Servant of (the god) Nebo.” Lastly, the name Mishael means “Who is what god is.” His Babylonian name was “Meshach.” It means “I Am of Little Account.” Wouldn’t you just love to know what Meshach did to deserve that title?
In Daniel 1:3-7, we’re told that Nebuchadnezzar issued explicit orders how these captives were to be treated . . . even to their diets. They were to eat from the King’s own table which meant they were served the very best food. But it also meant that the food had been dedicated to the Babylonian gods. We’re told that Daniel refused to “. . . defile himself with the food and wine” because it was dedicated to false gods. It’s strongly implied, however, that he did this in a most respectful manner. He may have been stubborn, but he wasn’t stupid. He asked permission to eat only kosher foods, and it was begrudgingly granted.
Which brings me to the point of this sermon. Is it your desire to live a life wholly committed to Christ? To live a life of conviction requires commitment:
I. You must examine your convictions by the light of God’s Word.
David Hume was an 18th century British philosopher who rejected historic Christianity. It’s been said that he once met a friend hurrying along a London street and asked where he was going. The friend said he was off to hear George Whitfield preach. "But surely you don’t believe what Whitfield preaches do you?" asked Hume. "No, I don’t,” the friend replied. “But he does."
A person who is fully committed to his or her convictions will invariably draw attention. Why? Because it’s rare. Most people, unfortunately, don’t know what they believe, and therefore, they are easily swayed by those with commitment to their convictions. A very real problem, however, is that not all convictions are healthy.
Sidney Harris, in “Bits and Pieces”, writes, “I’m tired of hearing about men with the "courage of their convictions." Nero and Caligula and Attila the Hun and Hitler all had the courage of their convictions . . . but not one had the courage to examine his convictions, or to change them. That’s the true test of character.”
Isaiah 51:7-8 tells us, “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, you people who have my teaching in your hearts; do not fear the reproach of others, and do not be dismayed when they revile you. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my deliverance will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.”
Daniel and his friends based their convictions on God’s Word. Leviticus 11 – 17 outlines God’s commands concerning eating clean or unclean food. Today we generally regard these as hygienic guidelines and not spiritual laws, but to Daniel they were God’s laws and not to be trifled with. Daniel may not have understood the reason for God’s laws, but he was determined to obey them.
How many of us today can say the same? When told that abortion is against God’s law, or told to “honor your father and mother” how often do we see people open their minds to arguments which fly in the face of God’s law? How often do we “open our minds” and let faith in God and the conviction to trust His wisdom simply drain out of our hearts? Why do we fear offending people at the cost of offending God?