Summary: An introduction to the book of Daniel and a look at the first chapter where we learn that we are not to compromise our personal holiness.
Well it had to come sooner or later. I’ve tried to avoid it as long as possible. But I seem to be left with no choice, today I have to face it. Yes it’s time to look at the Bible story that’s all about eating your vegetables, or is it? I guess those of you that know my life style choices when it comes to food recognise that I probably don’t go with that interpretation of this passage. I can almost see me going the other way. OK, King how about you give me nothing but meat and Irn Bru and see how I do. Ironically enough for a modern era, the way the story is told it is almost as if the health and well being of Daniel and his friends while living on Vegetables and water is due to the direct intervention of God in a miraculous manner. It is certainly not about the health value of a vegetarian diet. It’s about not compromising on God’s standards even when it could cost you dearly. It’s about choosing whether your going to sell out or be sold out for God.
We have almost come to the end of our series on John, there will be one more sermon tonight on the last chapter of John and then we have our dramatic reading of John probably in a few weeks time, which I really encourage you to attend. There is something powerful about just reading Scripture, especially a whole a book at once and if we do it well it should really be a memorable event. Anyway as we reach the end of one series I was considering and praying about what to do for the next series. One of the ideas I had was to look at the will of God and I still intend to do this but not at the moment. As I was reading through some books searching for a book or a topic to cover, I was reading about Daniel. However, on Thursday and Friday, there were two news stories on TV that convinced me I had found the right topic. They both use the correct interpretation of the story we are looking at this morning, but one applies it correctly and one almost misses the point altogether.
The first was Jeremy Paxman’s interview with J K Rowling on BBC 2 on Thursday. If you’ve spent the last few weeks on Mars and didn’t know what this is all about. The 5th Harry Potter novel, The Order of the Phoenix, was realised on Saturday. The book is a landmark not only in Children’s fiction but in publishing. It was the biggest book launch in the world ever with more copies being printed in the first run than any other book. It is also probably the longest children’s novel ever at over 750 pages. In fact as Jeremy Paxman pointed out, it is actually longer than the New Testament. To which J K Rowling replied rather bitterly that fundamentalist Christians would probably use that as the latest reason why the series was the work of the devil. Some Christian’s reactions to Harry Potter showcases the wrong use of the story of Daniel, I think.
The other piece that caught my eye and caused me to glance away from my computer and give my full attention to BBC News 24 which I usually have on in the background when I work, was the news about the appointment of a homosexual bishop in the Church of England, or rather the Evangelical reaction to this appointment. A group of clergy from Oxford where the new Bishop will hold office had signed a petition against the appointment and were having a meeting with the appointing Bishop to see if they could change his mind. Much to the news readers utter astonishment and you could tell they were completely caught unaware by this and were shocked, no compromise had been reached. You could tell and they came out later and said that they expected there to be some sort of compromise reached to allow the Bishop to take his position with at least the appearance of support from all. The representative of the evangelicals gave a statement in which he said that the Bishop had not reversed his decision but that neither were they backing down. That the decision could split the church and they would consider bringing in outside spiritual leadership for them and their churches. They were not going to compromise.
This is what a lot of the stories from the book of Daniel, this one in particular are about not compromising. Standing firm and sticking to your guns no matter what. But before we get into it all and ask questions like, when do you defend an issue to the death and when do you gracefully agree to disagree lets look at the background to Daniel.