Summary: This sermon focuses on the life and ministry of Daniel.
Introduction: Last week we began a series of sermons on Hero’s of the Faith, by talking about Moses. I was going to continue talking about Moses today, but then changed my mind. Instead I want to focus your attention on another great Hero of the faith, a man named Daniel.
The story of Daniel is a heroic story about faith and courage. It’s one of those stories that we first heard in the preschool department in Sunday School. One of the lessons we can learn from Daniel is to have the courage to say “no” to things that are wrong, while standing up for what we know is right.
Text: DANIEL 1:1-7 (NLT)
During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it with his armies. (V.1)
The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah. When Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon, he took with him some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God
and placed them in the treasure-house of his god in the land of Babylonia. (V.2)
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, who was in charge of the palace officials, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. (V.3)
"Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men," he said. "Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good sense,
and have the poise needed to serve in the royal palace. Teach these young men the language and literature of the Babylonians. (V.4)
The king assigned them a daily ration of the best food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for a three-year period,
and then some of them would be made his advisers in the royal court. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. (v.6)
The chief official renamed them with these Babylonian names: Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego. (v.7)
The first six chapters of the book are set in Babylon and tell the story of Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The best and brightest Jews including Daniel and his friends were taken into captivity, when Nebuhcadnezzar King of Babylon, captured the city of Jerusalem in 605 B.C.
Many Christian young people today have trouble dealing with the temptations of the world when they go away to college. They move away from home, and mom and dad are no longer there to help them stay on the straight and narrow.
Moving away to college is one thing, but being forced to move 900 miles away from home, to the city of Babylon, which was one of the most ‘worldly’ cities that has ever existed was something completely different.
One of the most difficult things for Daniel and his friends was to remain faithful to their religious beliefs and values, in a city and country that was full of immorality.
In many respects we are facing a similar situation in America today. No we haven’t been conquered and taken captive into a foreign land. But in many respects we are more of a “Pagan” nation than we are a Christian nation. We are no longer “One Nation under God.” Instead we are “one nation under many gods.”
But let’s get back to Daniel. Our story begins when he is a young man. Even as a teenager Daniel had the courage to say no.
Daniel grew up during a very turbulent time in the history of the nation of Israel. As I said a few minutes ago God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to defeat the nation of Israel in 605 B.C. The King then instructed his soldiers to select a number of the most promising young men and bring them back to Babylon, where they would be given the best education possible and prepared to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s government. Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednego, were some of the young men that were taken back to Babylon. We refer to Daniel’s friends by the names that were given to them when they arrived in Babylon. Daniel was also given a new name, which was Belteshazzar, but we generally refer to him by using his Hebrew name.
Someone once said, “If courage is the strength to say no,” “wisdom is the ability of knowing when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’.” Daniel and his friends possessed both Wisdom and Courage. They knew when to say no, and they had the courage to stand by their decisions.
You see, not everything Babylon had to offer was bad. Daniel accepted a Babylonian education and a Babylonian name. But he knew when to say no and stood by that decision.