Think with me to the year 1996. That was 20 years ago. Much has changed in 29 years! Do you remember your cell phone from 1996? Not everyone had a cell phone back then. They were fairly large, and they looked like, well, a telephone, with a receiver for your ear, a mouth piece, and.... an antena!
The first flip phone came out in 1996. If you had one, you were cutting edge!
Bill Clinton was President
Bob Dole on his way to winning the Republican Primary
1996 was before 9/11
1996 was before the 2007-8 Housing and Credit Crisis
Striking, 1996 was the first year that the Gallop ever questioned Americans on their view of gay marriage. Then 27% agreed that gay marriage should be recognized. Today, that number is 60%. www.gallup.com/poll/183272/record-high-americans-support-sex-marriage.aspx Sociologists tell us that this is the sharpest societal attitudinal change every recorded for any subject in our nation.
This fact is just one of the many illustrations reminding us that our world has changed. We live in a culture that is increasingly anti-Christian and secular. HOW do we respond?
A few weeks ago I spoke about the difference in the attitudes of Jews living in Jerusalem, and the Gentiles living in Athens. The Jerusalem Jews had a knowledge of God and Scriptures. But the Gentiles in Athens were completely pagan in their thinking. For most of us, We feel like we grew up in Jerusalem but we’re now living in Athens.
IS THERE AN EXAMPLE of a faithful believer succeeding in a pagan culture? I believe that there is in the character of DANIEL!
By studying Daniel, we will get a glimpse of a man who lived and thrived in a pagan culture. Daniel instructs us how we should live in our culture today.
The Crisis in Daniel’s Day - BABYLON!
In 609 BC, Assyria formed a desperate alliance with Egypt to stop Babylon. Egypt sent it’s army north to assist Assyria. King Josiah tried to stop Egypt’s army at Megido and was badly defeated. Josiah lost his life, and Judah inadvertently contributed to the defeat of the Assyrians and the rise of the Babylonians. The Battle of Carchemesh was a decisive victory for Babylon. The Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, was ill and could not lead the battle. His son Nebuchadnezzar led the battle and grew in power and influence. This event propels Nebuchadnezzar into world prominence and favor in Babylon.
On another attack of Mesopatamia, Nebuchadnezzar raided Judah, laid a siege against Jerusalem and took captives, including Daniel, Hananiah, Meshael and Azariah
JEREMIAH and LAMENTATIONS describe these events.
Jeremiah 46:1–6 "The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. " "About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: " "“Prepare buckler and shield, and advance for battle! " "Harness the horses; mount, O horsemen! Take your stations with your helmets, polish your spears, put on your armor! " "Why have I seen it? They are dismayed and have turned backward. Their warriors are beaten down and have fled in haste; they look not back— terror on every side! declares the Lord. " "“The swift cannot flee away, nor the warrior escape; in the north by the river Euphrates they have stumbled and fallen."
Jeremiah 46:13–19 "The word that the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to strike the land of Egypt: " "“Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol; proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes; say, ‘Stand ready and be prepared, for the sword shall devour around you.’ " "Why are your mighty ones face down? They do not stand because the Lord thrust them down. " "He made many stumble, and they fell, and they said one to another, ‘Arise, and let us go back to our own people and to the land of our birth, because of the sword of the oppressor.’ " "Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, ‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’ " "“As I live, declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts, like Tabor among the mountains and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come. " "Prepare yourselves baggage for exile, O inhabitants of Egypt! For Memphis shall become a waste, a ruin, without inhabitant."
In these chapters of Jeremiah, the prophet describes the events that surrounded Daniel’s captivity in Babylon.
Babylon must have been quite intimidating to Daniel and his friends! The ruins of ancient Babylon spread over 2,000 acres - the largest site in Mesopotamia. The city had massive walls, with eight gates providing entrance to the city, each gate named after a god. The most famous was the Ishtar Gate, which was deconstructed and rebuilt. It is now on display at the Bergamom Museum, in Berlin. You would approach the Ishtar gate on a massive processional street 65 feet wide and paved with white limestone and red bricks. Four story buildings lined each side of the street decoreated with lions six feet in length (symbolic of Ishtar)
What was is like for Daniel and his friends? Like somebody who never left the country visiting NYC!!
Every Spring, the king would accompany the statue of Marduk in a grand procession during the New Year festival. What was it like for Daniel? LIKE somebody from the country seeing the MACY’s THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE!
Nebuchadnezzar reconstructed the seven staged brick temple - a ziggurat that reached 300 feet - taller than any building in Cumberland County NJ! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_New_Jersey
There were many royal palaces - most famous was the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” - a palace Nebuchadnezzar built for his Median wife who missed her luxuriant homeland (Bill Arnold, Peoples of the OT World, 64).
There were 50 Temples, Libraries, literature, science. “The Babylonians transmitted and in some cases even originated most of the cultural and religious foundations for the OT world. They and their predecessors the Sumerians established the philosophical and social infrastructure fo Israel’s neighbors.” (Arnold, 43)
Babylon was ain imposing and impressive place. The overwhelming temptation would have been to not rock any boats, stay out of trouble and stay alive.
The impressive city, and the fact that Judah’s God was seemingly defeated created a great temptation for Daniel his friends to CONFORM.
Daniel 1:1–7 "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego."
Daniel has to learn a NEW LANGUAGE. So they would forget Judah, their heritage, their homeland.
They are given NEW NAMES
Daniel “God is my Judge” is changed to Beltashazzar “May Bel Protect his Life”
Hananiah “Jehovah is Gracious” is changed to to Shadrach “I am Fearful of God”
Mishael “Who is as God?” is changed to to Meshach “Who is what Aku is?”
Azariah “Whom Jehovah Helps” is changed to to Abednego “Servant of Nebo”
Each of these name changes is a direct attack on the God of the Hebrew children. This tactic is meant to weaken their resolve as captives.
They are given a NEW EDUCATION. Daniel 1:4. This was meant to impress and intimidate the Hebrews . Hebrew children would learn 3 languages, anatomy, mathematics, metalurgy and astronomy.
They were provided NEW COMFORTS. Although they missed their homeland, they lived a comfortable life.
They were forced to accept a NEW DIET. The way to a teenager’s mind is through his stomach! All the choice food of Babylon was presented to them. They could have very easily violated their spiritual upbringing, figuring that “no one would ever find out,” and that “no one expects us to remain kosher after being taken captive!
Believers today are also tempted to conform. Our Christian faith is maligned, ridiculed and in many cases, persecuted by the people of power in academics, media, entertainment and politics.
There is a NEW LANGUAGE in our world today. The language of tolerance. The language of psychology. The language of pluralism. The language of modernism.
IN our world, many celebrate the DEMISE of GOD!
How will you respond?
There is a NEW EDUCATION in our world today.
The god of Evolution
The god of the Environment
The god of Entertainment
There are NEW COMFORTS available to us. Francis Schaeffer calls these comforts, “Personal peace and affluence” How Shall We Then Live, 1974
Daniel provides an example of how we can achieve victory against overwhelming odds, in a culture that is against us.
Daniel’s Spiritual Victory - lessons we can learn from Daniel
Calm. Daniel knew that GOD was at WORK and had not abandoned him or his people!!!!!
Committed to God. Daniel 1:8 "But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself."
Courageous. He dared ask for different food.
Compassionate. He listened to the King’s servant. This compassion would also be shown to Nebuchadnezzar! Daniel is concerned for Nebuchadnezzar’s salvation!
Courteous. He respectfully asks the king’s servant. Daniel 1:8 "But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself."
Confident. Daniel trusted that God would work in a miraculous way. Daniel 1:10 "and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”"
1. There is no medical reason that this would make a difference/
2. Daniel was fully trusting that God would work!
Confirmed. Daniel’s faith in God is confirmed as a witness to everyone around!
Our world looks a lot like Babylon
God is at work!!!!!
Daniel stayed true to the Lord. Rising from obscurity as a Hebrew slave, Daniel is the one who influenced his culture. He became a trusted confidant of the King, and influenced the entire academic realm of Babylon.
We need men and women like Daniel today. It seems that America is just like Babylon. What a great time for a person like Daniel to come along and change your world!