Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank….”
DARE TO BE A DANIEL?
What an extremely sad occasion it was! Thousands of Judah were carried from their homes and friends to be taken to a foreign land. Sorrow must have filled their hearts. That old home might never be seen again! That familiar plot of ground in which work worn hands had toiled for many years was rudely taken from them. Friends, with whom they lived for their lifetimes, were separated—never to see each other again.
But, for the God-fearing Jew, the worst was to be taken from the land of promise and from the temple of God at Jerusalem. The temple was the place where worship and thanksgiving were offered to Jehovah. It was the sign of His presence. The ark was there with its mercy seat covering the law of God. The temple was the place of blessings; of hope; of praise. To be separated from that was to be torn from the very place of God’s favor. No wonder the faithful Jew grieved; no wonder he hung his harp upon a willow and refused the request of his rude captors to sing Zion’s songs. How could he sing in separation from the favor of God? How could he sing with that awareness of heart that the very transgression of Judah culminated in this captivity because of the wrath of God?
Daniel and his three friends were among the captives taken from Judah. But they were not treated as ordinary captives. Taken to the king’s palace, they were taught all the learning of the Chaldeans. For the king had commanded that choice Jews, men well favored and skilful in all wisdom and cunning in knowledge and understanding science, would be taken and prepared to stand in his presence. Certainly their “lot” appeared to be a good one. The king commanded that they would be fed with the best of the land, of the meat of the king’s table. For three years they would be taught in the language and knowledge of the Chaldeans. Who could complain about such “captivity”? One would appear to be the fool to endanger this “captivity” in any way. Why not enjoy one’s self and make the best of the present opportunities?
But Daniel refused to defile himself. He remained faithful without fear of consequences. His name had already been changed to “Belteshazzar”. Though we read nothing of Daniel’s reaction to this, it could hardly have pleased this servant of the Lord. The name is a derivative of “Bel” the Chaldean god. That was a rather drastic change from his name, Daniel (meaning: God will judge).
But Daniel refuses the food set before him. Politely, he requests the eunuch to keep it from him. For Daniel had purposed in his heart not to defile himself. What a strange young man, was he not? We might even chide Daniel for his rashness. Admittedly, there might be some irregularities according to the Jewish law in the preparation of the food set before Daniel. But, after all, it was only food. To refuse the will of the king in such an apparently minor matter not only endangered Daniel’s position, but also his very life. Was it even right to endanger a potential influential position in the court of the king for a piece of meat? Surely, under the circumstances, God will also excuse Daniel and the three friends from such strict observance of His law.
But such reasoning would be false. We must understand first of all the intent of the king. He was not simply kindly providing education for poor boys who could not otherwise afford it. Rather, his intention was to separate these captives from their old connections and make of them Chaldeans. It was his very intent to lead them from the worship of the living God, from the laws of God as revealed to Moses and make them into his own image. That becomes so very plain in his changing of the names of Daniel and his three friends. Why were not the old names acceptable? Simply because the young men who are being trained in the king’s palace are henceforth to regard themselves as Chaldeans. They are to worship “Bel”, no more the living God. This Daniel refused to do.
In that light one can understand why Daniel refused the king’s meat and wine. He must show that he cannot be submissive to the intent of the king and forget the promise of God. Much of the food from the king’s table was doubtlessly “unclean”. It would be meat that the Israelite was forbidden to eat. Besides, it was customary to serve food first offered in sacrifice to idols of the Chaldeans. Surely that was true for all the meat of “the king’s table”. Refusal to partake of all this meant that Daniel, by God’s grace, would maintain the law of God, though he was in a strange land. He indicated that he looked yet for the fulfillment of promise, for the coming of Christ—though humanly speaking that promise appeared impossible of fulfillment since the captivity. As did Moses of old, Daniel refused to be called the king’s “son”, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Dare to be a Daniel? Dare to stand alone? In many ways our situation is similar to that in which Daniel found himself. We believe that our homeland is heaven—but we are presently separated from that promised land. Now we live on the earth. And every attempt is being made to have us become established here. And the drive to have us be more concerned with the earthly rather than the heavenly, is directed primarily towards the youth. There is the emphasis upon material things, earthly comforts. The goal of man is so very plainly set forth in his advertising. The attempt is made to have us desire all the new products which are on the market. We must become educated; we must work diligently—in order to obtain wealth and that which wealth can buy. Union and fellowship with the world is encouraged, encouraged even by leaders within the church world of our day.
One is urged to imitate the present world. Its type of dress must be that which we begin to wear, too. A Beatle-mania becomes seen even among Christian young people. The current hit-tunes are hummed and sung. Movie attendance (whether in the theatre or on the home television screen) appears to become an acceptable form of entertainment. We live on the earth, don’t we? Is there anything wrong with enjoying life? Everyone else does.
A vision arises in one’s mind. Daniel sits about the table of the king. He stuffs his mouth with the king’s defiled meat. The king’s wine spills upon the cloth as he hastily grabs for more of that meat. His gay laughter joins that of all his companions as they enjoy their captivity. Let the old fogies hang their harps on the willows and mourn; youth must have its pleasure.
But what a horrible vision! How contrary to reality—as far as Daniel was concerned. How impossible, then, for us to “go along”. The age is one of rapidly declining morality; spirituality, true spirituality, seems unknown anymore. But, yet, there are youthful Daniels. By God’s grace these continue to renounce this world, though of necessity they live here for a time. Yet there are those (though how few) who would face the wrath of kings, the laughter of “friends” , the mockery of the world, persecution and even death—for they will not be called “sons” of the world. They are sons of God for Jesus’ sake. God so continues to preserve His Church from generation to generation. Dare to be a Daniel?