“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine that he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8
Did it ever occur to you, my youthful reader, what it means to be as wise as a serpent, and to be as harmless as a dove? What the significance of such conduct is in the midst of an evil world? What is implied to be such when one is thrown as sheep amongst the wolves? What it means not to deny the faith nor the testimony of God in Israel, the testimony of Jesus?
One must know the intent of the enemy of God and of His people. Although Daniel was a very young man he understood the issue at stake for the people of God in Babylon. He understood the wiles of the king, Nebuchadnezzar. He understood that the purpose of the king was that Daniel and his three friends should lose their identity in Babylon, and that the church of Christ should too be swallowed up in the great Babylonian empire to be remembered no more. Such is ever the intent of Satan and his angels as they make war with the saints through the powers of the world, the throne of the beast!
Oh, it would seem that Daniel and his three friends “have it made.” And, if they would only have been willing to become good Babylonians in heart and mind, they would have no problem. Think of the great success of these young men! They were offered a great “future.” The king desired to have them to stand in his palace as counselors. They must be thoroughly educated in the teaching and knowledge of the Babylonians. They must take a three-year course of study. Groomed for a special purpose they will be. Could they not have congratulated themselves on their fine fortune and turn of events as is done in the world of men?
Ah, but there was a fly in the ointment! The king of Babylon was not interested in the well-being of Daniel and that of his friends at all. He is only interested in his great Babylon that he is building; he is a master strategist who knows the art of politics and practical psychology of the world diplomacy. He plays it to the hilt. He does not merely give tem government support for their education, a nice scholarship at the university of Babylon, but he even promises them a position upon graduation from the school. Meanwhile they do not simply eat in a dormitory but they can eat from the king’s table, the wine and the best of meat. He will flatter them into submission.
However, the king forgot one thing. He forgot or rather did not understand the mystery of that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. With this force of God’s grace in the heart of Daniel and his friends he had not reckoned. It was here the purpose of Daniel in his heart. Was he a mere stubborn Jew, a nationalistic zealot, a “right-winger” for the Jewish cause in Babylon, who for political reasons would not drink of the king’s wine, even though it were kosher? Certainly there was no ceremonial law at stake in their drinking wine. Or to eat meat? Perhaps this was wine and meat which had been defiled by being offered to the Babylonian state gods. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not be defiled with this wine and meat. He would eat the simple food of his own common people; he will only eat pulse which is a form of vegetable stew.
There must have been so much in Babylon which was bitter. Daniel knew it to be the will of the Lord that Israel should dwell in Babylon for a long time according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah. But, in the meantime, he will retain his spiritual identity. He will be in the world—Babylon, yet he will not be of this pan-Asiatic kingdom of Babylon. Yes, they had changed his beautiful Christian name. They had given him a thoroughly Babylonian name: Belteshazzar. This must have been a source of great sorrow and concern to him. For the name Daniel had been given him by his parents at the time of his circumcision. His god-fearing parents had confessed in faith and hope: God will judge. Therefore they named the little child: DaniEL. God would judge his people righteously and would deliver them. Similarly the parents of Hananiah. These had said in their hearts: Jehovah is gracious and merciful, and they called their little son: Hananiah. His name had become the meaningless: Shadrach. And also the parents of Mishael had confessed in the darkest hours of Israel’s history: what God commands. They would adhere to the law and the prophets and thus they would await the dawn of the fulfillment of God’s promise in Christ. And, finally, there was Azariah. His parents had said in faith and hope: Jehovah is the keeper. The Lord will help. These young covenant men were not ashamed of their names called upon them in faith. They were not flattered by their new names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They would never deny the good name which had been called upon them!
Yes, they will receive the education and instruction of Babylon. They really had no other choice. They were drafted into the king’s service. God had gifted them greatly. They were young, strong, beautiful, and wise and able to learn. They were the “brain-boys” of Babylon’s University. They graduated dum aude, or even better. They stood far above the others in their class in learning. But they understood the king’s evil intent and purpose. They knew that he was interested in them to fit them in the “great society” and not in them as individuals. The state is never interested in the individual; nor today either when it hands out the free scholarships. Nor is the state interested in our schools to support them but to gain control! Let us not be hoodwinked into that net!
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not be blinded by so much advancement and delicacies from the king’s table. He will be in the king’s court and there he will, by God’s grace, be the prophet who prophesies of the coming of the Kingdom of Christ which will lay low all the kingdoms of this world. We too, young people, must thus be in the world, and live by the world of prophecy, as a beacon light in the darkness, till the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts.