Summary: Sermon on stewardship
Dainties and Discipleship
Daniel 1: 1-21
CALVIN CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH
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At first glance, Daniel’s story might seem to be merely an endorsement for vegetarianism. Begin to dig,
though, and you soon discover that it’s not.
Instead this passage introduces us afresh to a battle facing all followers of God - a battle for their
allegiance and for control of their lives.
In verse 2, Babylon is literally the Hebrew word Shinar.
That was the name for the plain where the Tower of Babel stood.
And Babel - well, that’s the preeminent society on display in the Old Testament as defiant against
God’s reign. If they were around today, their city council would probably develop a mission statement something
“A people building a culture that reaches to the heavens, and a reputation unequalled - a people
no one will scatter.”
That spirit of Babel reared its head again in the empire of Babylonia. It was the dominant power of the
day. They tried to enforce their dominance by taking the brightest and the best from nations they conquered,
and through an early form of residential schooling, tried to extinguish the inner lights of their home culture, and
assimilate them into Babylonian religion, language and culture.
Make them, from the heart out, Babylonian.
That way there’d be buy in, no rebellion - solid support for the empire.
So Daniel and his three friends are plunged into training for the Babylonian civil service.
That, in itself, was not wrong.
The Bible describes many who served in foreign governments, and did so with the full blessing of God.
It’s not where Daniel found himself that is at issue in this Bible account.
The issue is one of response.
Daniel has the same challenge that faces all servants of the Lord:
You can’t always change the circumstances in which you find yourself.
That’s often out of your control.
But you can control your response to the circumstance.
As someone has said,
“You can’t stop birds from flying around your head. But you can stop them from making a nest in your
Circumstance item -
The king issues orders to have their names changed.
Your name carries a chunk of your identity with it. It does today. If kids want to be cruel to someone,
an easy way to sink a verbal dart is to lampoon their name. It hurts. If I misspell a name in the bulletin, it takes
about 30 seconds after service for that person to make a bee line and correct me.
You are what you are named – that was a far deeper, stronger dynamic in the days of Daniel. So
Nebuchadnezzar figures to start getting to their heart and mind through their names.
- their names end in “el”, Hebrew abbreviation for“elohim” - God.
- their names end in “ah”, Hebrew allusion to the name “Jahweh” - the Lord.
The new names they are given reflect, in one or another, the gods of Babylon -
Aku and Nego.
That was just the way things were - circumstance - nothing Daniel and his buddies could do about it.
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Step two - soften ‘em up.
Give them a top notch education with an unlimited entertainment allowance and meals that were miles
better than any cafeteria would offer.
Now, we’re not told exactly what kind of food it was.
And we’re given no idea as to how it was prepared.
Did it contain pork?
Was the first portion offered on an altar to Aku and Nego?
Scholars have speculated, but fact is, we simply don’t know for sure.
Bottom line is that Daniel recognizes, somewhere in there, that he’s being baited along, lured to chomp on the
hook and get reeled into the boat of Babylonian life, culture and faith.
Now we’re moving beyond circumstance to a choice that had to be made;
a response that needed to be offered.
“Just say ‘NO’, Daniel!”
And he does.
He recognizes a line that he, as a believer in and follower of the Lord, ought not cross.
So he stops and won’t take another step.
Actually - he takes a step out in faith.
He doesn’t fold his arms across his chest in defiant rebellion.
Rather, he folds his hands in a posture of request, and with pounding heart breathing a prayer of trust,
goes out on a limb, counting on God to keep it from getting sawed off behind him.
Daniel figures, “If the Lord has called my people to certain dietary laws, there must be a reason. I don’t
understand them all. But I’ll trust that He is right. And I’ll trust that He’ll honour my obedience.”