Summary: What makes a person influential? What caused Daniel to be such a powerful influence all the days of his life?
Influencing Others Exemplified By Daniel
“You are the salt of earth.” “You are the light of the world.” That’s Jesus’ description of his followers in Matthew 5. Both metaphors are about influence. In that culture salt was primarily used to preserve meat—to keep it from corrupting and spoiling. Light drives away darkness and establishes an environment. You and I are called to be salt and light in this ungodly world.
What does it take for you and me to be the influence God wants us to be? What makes a person influential? What caused Daniel to be such a powerful influence all the days of his life? Those are some of the issues we want to address this morning as we look at Daniel’s experience in our text.
Our story in Daniel 1 takes place in Babylon located the area of the world known today as Iraq. Follow with me as we read Dan 1:1-2—the year is 605 B.C. “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.”
These are hard times for the people of God. The cruel king of Babylon has conquered Jerusalem—plundered the temple of God—taken the holy articles from the temple to make them treasures in the house of the Babylonian god. Can you imagine the discouragement that must have settled over God’s people with that kind of defeat? Verse 2 specifically tells us that “the Lord delivered Jehoiakem” into the hands of their enemy—Nebuchadnezzar.
Then the next few verses tell us that the brightest and best of the young captives were taken to Babylon as slaves to be indoctrinated in the Chaldean way of thinking and placed in service to the pagan king. Among this group was a young teenager named Daniel. In the verses that follow three characteristics of this young man stand out as major factors in his influence with others.
I. Commitment: Passion for values and purpose.
Everything about this situation was designed to change Daniel’s values and personal identity. The 3-year program of indoctrination was geared toward making these slaves forget their former loyalties and align themselves with the Babylonian way of life. Their diet was changed. Their environment was radically changed. No doubt the way they dressed was changed. They were taught from the Babylonian textbooks. Even their names were changed.
The purpose of Nebuchadnezzar’s program becomes evident when we look at the name changes imposed upon Daniel and his companions. Dan 1:6-7 “Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.”
Daniel’s name meant “God’s prince or judge”.
His new name, Belteshazzar, meant “Bel’s prince”
Hananiah meant “Mercy of Yahwah.”
His new name, Shadrach, meant “Command of Aku (the moon god).”
Mishael meant “Who is what God is?”
His new name, Meshach, meant “Who is like Aku”
Azariah meant “Whom Yahwah helps.”
His new name, Abednego, meant “Servant of Nego.”
Everything was designed to undermine their sense of Jewish identity and to assimilate them into the ungodly Babylonian culture.
Verse 8 tells us why it didn’t work “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself...” NKJV says “But Daniel purposed in his heart...” He believed in something so deeply that the radical change in circumstances could not altar those beliefs. Think about what it must have been like for young Daniel as he was taken into captivity and led away into Babylon. First, he has seen the temple in Jerusalem plundered and destroyed by the enemy. Perhaps one might be tempted to ask—where is God? Why would He allow a nation more wicked than Israel to defeat God’s people? Why would He allow His holy temple to be invaded and plundered? Might that not shake some people’s faith?
Imagine this young teen coming into the affluent metropolis with walls 300 feet high and 80 feet broad. Flowing through the city is the Euphrates River with canals something you would see in Venice today. And next to the king’s palace was one of the Seven Wonders of the World—the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Even more spectacular than all that was the temple to Bel-Meroacach. It was 600 feet high. Long before these young men arrived in the city they could see the walls towering in the horizon. But twice as high as that was this pagan temple central to life in Babylon. It was food that had been offered to Bel-Meroachah that was set before Daniel and the three Hebrew children. The grandeur and affluence no doubt captured many young hearts. But Daniel had a different value system.