Introduction: A whole new world. A new fantastic point of view. Song lyrics from a song from the Disney movie Aladdin, in which the thought of things changing suddenly around you would be wonderful and exciting. Imagine looking down on a city or town and experiencing the excitement and happiness. Changes can be amazing! Although the changes in the life of Daniel were far less happy and exciting. Daniel was born during the middle of King Josiah’s reign, and he grew up during the king’s reform. This reform consisted of removing all Pegan alters and Idols from the Temple and destroying all religious sanctuaries so the Temple of Jerusalem would be the centralizing point of worship. Nebuchadnezzar was the supreme leader of Babylonia, feared by the world and next in line to be king. When Nebuchadnezzar came to overthrow a country, success was almost certain. After Babylonia had achieved victory, they would take all that they wanted and would live peacefully there. With the things that they took, the articles would be taken to the Temple of Jerusalem, to be given to the false god “Bal”. Although they also took captives back to Babylonia whom would serve in the king’s court. With having to serve their new king in a new land, they would also have to learn all about the Pegan culture. The brightest most useful people were taken captives.
Transition: With these many captives that were taken, Daniel was among that group. They endured a 500-mile trek in harsh conditions, in order to get to their “new home” and endure their new training.
Point 1: New Training- Daniel 1:1-4
Daniel wasn’t alone on this new journey; he had his three friends with him. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. There is no way to tell how many were with them, although these four were the only ones who were named. Together they were going to Babylonia to endure the three-year rigorous training in order to work as assets in the king’s palace once it was completed. The training included learning about many subjects such as agriculture, architecture and many more. Though, the language Akkadian was the most likely to be learned. Akkadian is an ancient language that is sophisticated. Symbols are used in order to represent syllables. Just this language alone would take great discipline and practice. Learning a new language for many if not all people is hard and takes a lot of time. Imagine becoming fluent in a foreign language in as little as three years.
Those who were chosen to endure this training were taken for far more than just their looks or physical normality. They needed to be able to have great intelligence, in order to learn all, the new things that would be required, as well as being disciplined. The ability to demonstrate aptitude combined with integrity will serve them well in their new surroundings. Learning to conform to the ways of those around them lived, so they could fit into the society. All these new things were to be learned by a diverse group of people, whom would be used in Babylonia to give them an advantage on the surrounding areas. This group would also be responsible for teaching the next generation so they could become better and brighter than those before them.
Illustration: Cinderella, a beloved Disney movie, the first ever Disney movie, about a girl who loses her father and is left with her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Although Cinderella didn’t move to a completely new place, her surroundings changed and life as she knew it changed. Instead of being treated as a member of the family, she was now a servant. She did all the housework and chores. The circumstances around her changed. Although Cinderella was able to stay true to what she believed in which was, “to have courage and be kind”. This is precisely what she did. Through the treatment she endured, she stayed true to herself. She was kind and had courage until the very end (of the movie).
Application: In today’s world, and even back in the times of Daniel, it was easy to compromise what you believe in. The way people treat us or changes that are happening around us influence us maybe more than we choose to acknowledge. It’s important that we continue to stay true to God, and in tough times have those around who are also know God. For they can help us with our faith, and struggles. This world will try to get us to conform to their ways and views, but we need to stand strong in our faith no matter the circumstances. Change is inevitable, we can choose to fall over and let ourselves but ran over or stand with God and overcome the obstacles that may come our way.
Transition: The lives of these four boys changed in an instant. Everything they knew was gone. Though the changes weren’t over, next was their names.
Point 2: New Identity (Daniel 1:5-7)
To conform to their new home in Babylonia, the four boys had their names changed for them by Nebuchadnezzar. This most likely showed his authority over those he and his army chose to bring back. Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, all had Ye-haw mentioned in their names. In Babylonia, they believe in the god Bal, and Nebuchadnezzar was trying to erase their heritage and “make them Babylonian”. The new names would represent the new culture that they lived in.
Daniel’s name means “God is my judge”, which was changed to Belteshazzar, which means “Bel protect his life. Bel was the main god worshiped in Babylonia. The other names were changed to Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. Shadrack, refers to god of the moon, or according to Walvoord commentary, most likely means “I am fearful of a god” (Walvoord,1330). Meshack means “I am despised, contemptible, contemptible, humbled before my god”. Abednego “servant of Nebo”. Nebo was the god of writing and vegetation. All of the new names were believed to come from the language Akkadian. Nebuchadnezzar was hoping to obliterate any testimony of God within the Babylonia court, therefor, he gave the boys new names which were subject to the Babylonia gods.
Illustration: Pixar made a movie called The Incredibles within this movie; superheroes are banned from living life as super. Though the main character through the movie Bob Parr, or Mr. Incredible, refuses to let society take away his identity. The society he was living in, wanted to strip him and many others of what made them special, what helped them to be able to help others. He doesn’t let the law stop him from doing what’s right.
Application: Just as Bob Parr fought for his right to be super and express it. We need to be doing the same when it comes to showing God working in our lives. We cannot let authority figures, or society tell us who we can be, in hopes to make everyone become what they deem as normal. Daniel was told what to do by the king and royals from within the court, but he stood firm in his faith and refused to let them take God out of his life. We need to refuse to take God out of our lives. People will tell us it’s wrong, that God is imaginary, in hopes that we would conform. Daniel doesn’t! They’ve taken God out of his name, but he doesn’t allow them to take his faith in God out of his life.
Transition: All of these things are happening around Daniel and were out of his control, but there is something that he can control.
Point 3: A New Diet (Daniel 1:8-12)
Just like everything else in Daniel’s life changing, the food was no different. Nebuchadnezzar made sure that the captives had a life of luxury, rather than deprivation. He wanted them to feel welcome and taken care of. Their new lives of luxury consisted of portions of food and wine that came daily from the king’s own table. Daniel refused to eat the food. It’s believed that the food provided didn’t meet the requirements of the Mosaic Law. Although it’s not clearly known as to why. It could have been a meat that is against the Jewish law, such as pork. It could have been prepared by Gentiles who were deemed as unclean, or even that just by accepting the food and wine would be a way of accepting and depending on the gifts presented by the king. The food was most likely presented to the Pegan god before being presented to the king. Though Daniel wasn’t in a culture that honor God, Daniel still chose to obey God’s laws.
The word used to show Daniel’s refusal to eat was “Resolve”. The word means to be devoted to principle and to be committed to a course of action. Daniel was doing everything in his powerful to stay faithful to God and reject the religion that Babylonia was trying to force upon him. Daniel refused to conform to the world around him and accept what was believed to be gifts from the king. Daniel knew the laws that he was to follow. So, Daniel resolved that even though he wasn’t in his own land, but rather in a culture that didn’t follow God’s laws, he would consider himself under the Law. He asked the chief court official to be excused from eating these meals and drinking the wine that was supplied by the king.
The Babylonia official tried to convince Daniel to accept the food. For it was what the others were eating, and it would be insulting to the king to deny it. Although Daniel knew that he couldn’t eat the food. He was in a culture who didn’t believe in his God, but rather many gods. He told the official to only bring him vegetables to eat and water to drink. In those times, vegetables were most likely just grains. These grains were used and made in the same styles that we use to make potatoes. Mashed, steamed, boiled, and many more. Daniel wanted to prove that he didn’t need the fancy food that was offered to the Pegan gods to help him to become stronger. For he knew that following God and eating what were under the requirements of the Law, would help him to achieve the stature that he wanted to achieve. He said that he and his friends would be stronger and look healthier than the other men who were indulging in the food served by the king. The wishes were granted, and after ten days were compared to the other men and yes, they were stronger and healthier than the rest of the bunch.
Illustration: Martin Luther once said “If we consider the greatness and the flory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If we believe the Word, I shall on the last say, after the sentence has been pronounced, not only gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment, but I shall also say: "O, that I did not throw myself under the feet of all the godless for the sake of the great glory which I now see revealed and which has come to me through the merit of Christ!" (SermonIllustrations.com).
Application: It’s easy to resist temptation if you have thought through your convictions. Daniel knew the consequences for disobeying God. We need to be unwilling to change our beliefs because of the “rewards” or luxuries that may be presented to us. Daniel was treated with luxury, and yet he knew that it was wrong. Babylonia officials were trying to get him to conform and that meant forgetting God and worshiping the false gods, choosing things and food over religion. We need to be more like Daniel, resolve to obey God. Obedience to God will give us greater rewards than we can imagine. More blessings than we can imagine. Daniel stayed faithful, and through all of the heartache he must have felt, through all of the changes, he was still able to come out stronger and faithful in the end.
Through this whole experience that Daniel went through, being taken captive, enduring a new training that would be vigorous. Having been given a new identity in order to fit into society and he was still able to stand strong in his faith. Daniel even experienced a new diet, in which he couldn’t and wouldn’t eat in order to stay faithful to God. From all of these things that happened to Daniel in a short period of time didn’t stop his faith. He didn’t fall away from God in which some probably did. He chose to stand strong in his faith and denied the false gods. For Daniel knew what the right thing to do was, and he stuck to it.
We need to be able to stand strong in our faith when facing trials or new circumstances. We should be following the way God has for us instead of following society and the path it wants us to go down. Conforming to the world, will only make us miserable, and we will lose all of the joy and faith we have. Though if we’re trusting in God, and continue to walk in faith, we can resist the temptation of the world! We can stay faithful, by resisting the temptations presented in this world.
What are you hiding your faith from the world? Pretending to be someone different around every group of people you encounter? Are you following what the world deems are right? Or are you following God? Today and through the week, I want you to reflect on these questions, and seek God in these moments. It’s okay to ask God for help. He wants to help us, we just have to ask.