January 13th, 2023 - Faithful Among Enemy Nations

Faithful Among Enemy Nations

Take a moment and reflect on where you are. God has placed you at this time, in this place, in this culture, and surrounded you with these people. Dwell on that for a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you though the life of Daniel.

What if everything you know and love was snatched from you? Maybe you have lost those you held so dear, and everything you knew as comforting and secure is now far away. The past year was a difficult time for many.

Daniel, the author of the book, was called to be a prophet at the same time as Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Daniel was God’s prophet to kings in Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus); Ezekiel was God’s messenger to Jewish captives in Babylon; and Jeremiah cried out to a remnant of Jews in Jerusalem.

It was a time when kings conquered other nations and claimed the defeated foes’ treasures as their own. These treasures included both the material riches, as well as the people of the defeated nation who would be taken as slaves to the victor’s homeland.

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god. (Daniel 1:1-2, NLT)

This was a terrible time for Judah. Their King had failed to lead them in God’s way, and as a result the nation had fallen into idol worship. Then they experienced God’s punishment through the hand of a ruthless and cruel enemy. The Lord Himself gave Nebuchadnezzar victory over King Jehoiakim and Judah.

We know little about Daniel’s life in Jerusalem before he was taken captive to Babylon. He was probably about 16 years old, and he was from royalty or nobility (Daniel 1:3). It’s likely that Daniel was engaged or betrothed, and he was surrounded by family and friends. His life seemed secure and hopeful. He had plans and prominence. Imagine going from the security of a pleasant life surrounded by those you love and the hope of a bright future, into captivity and slavery with no hope of returning home.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”  The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. (Daniel 1:3-5, NLT)

King Nebuchadnezzar took Judah’s sacred temple treasures and he took the brightest and best of their young men. He had a plan to indoctrinate the captives into Babylonian culture and values. They were trained to learn the language and the literature and to eat the foods and drink the wines of the king. The original word used in verse 5 for “train” (NLT), “educate” (ESV), or “nourish” (KJV), can also mean “to twist.” Our enemy has a plan to twist our minds to accept and conform to the lifestyle of the world. The issue isn’t really what we eat or drink, but why. Paul tells us, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NLT).

The captives were offered the best foods and wines and the best training and education. These foods had been sacrificed to the king’s idols. To eat them would be to compromise God’s standards for their lives. It would be easy to take the path of least resistance. They had lost everything already. What did they else have to lose? We know that some of the Jewish youth gave in to Babylon’s ways, because Daniel and his friends who remained faithful to God were compared to the ones who accepted the king’s food and wine. (Daniel 1:12-15)

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. (Daniel 1:8, NLT)

In the face of crisis and disaster, Daniel remained faithful to God. He was decided and determined not to defile himself before temptation came. When he had nothing else, Daniel had the Lord and he chose to cling to Him.

Before temptation, trials, and crisis comes, determine to cling to God and follow His ways. God promises to “never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV).

Unfaithfulness to God leads to disaster. Often the people who are affected the most are the innocent ones. How is our nation like the nation of Judah? Once proclaimed as “One nation under God,” we seldom see God honored among our political leaders. As God’s people, we should be praying for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and voting for officials who will draw us closer to the Lord.

While certainly Daniel prayed to the Lord for strength and wisdom, he also asked for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Daniel wasn’t defiant or harsh. He was an example of meekness and submission to authority, while remaining faithful to God. Daniel had a close relationship with the Lord so he knew what God expected of him.  
What does God expect of you? Spend time with Him and ask Him to show you His plan and purpose for this year. (See Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Psalm 57:2.)

As Daniel and his friends followed God’s revealed standards, God blessed and used them. God did not change their surroundings or their circumstances. They didn’t get to return to Jerusalem where they were served, but they remained in Babylon as servants to ungodly kings. They were thrown into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and a lions’ den (Daniel 6), but through every trial, they held on to God. And they were victorious.

As you spend time with the Lord, determine to remain close to Him and see Him work in your life (Ephesians 2:10). God will reward your faithfulness.