Contending For The Faith

December 2, 2008

Daniel Study: Chapter 1

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 11:41 am
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The study of Daniel now continues, after the great introduction, into chapter 1.  Three John MacArthur sermons cover the narrative story in Daniel 1:  “An Uncompromising Life,” and “The Consequences of an Uncompromising Life” parts 1 and 2.

What sticks out in this part of the study is Daniel’s remarkable character, his quality and his desire to take a stand and not compromise.  As MacArthur points out, the Babylonians launched a complete brainwashing program, composed of three parts:  a name change, a pagan education, and “the king’s food.”  The young men from Judah were, according to ancient custom, probably in their early teens, between the ages of 13 and 17, which was considered an ideal age for brainwashing the young men, to completely eradicate their former identity and give them a new identity.  According to historians the group included 50 to 75 young men, and the Bible notes only the four — Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Alishael, and Azariah — of special note, a very small group.  The brainwashing succeeded in most of the young men.

Daniel didn’t have any problem with the first two areas, since God’s word gave no prohibitions against a name change or even of getting your education from pagan, secular sources.  The Bible tells us of a few others who had their name changed when in a foreign land:  Joseph, and Esther.  Daniel also realized that he could benefit from the Babylonians’ education system, since it included a lot of areas of overall knowledge; and with his grounding in the Lord he could filter out the bad (wrong) stuff.  Yet Daniel drew the line with the third area, one in which he would not compromise: eating the king’s delicacies.  God’s word clearly spelled out what foods a Jew could and could not eat.

As MacArthur says here:

It would seem like the education would be more powerful than the food. No. I don’t think so. I don’t think so because it’s the eating of the world’s delicacies that much more rapidly corrupts us. It’s the entering into the world’s life style that pollutes us, much more than the world’s thinking pattern. And he was willing to acknowledge that there were some good and bad things to be learned and he had what it took to filter those out.

A good point here is the corrupting nature of a society’s lifestyle, in the eating and drinking:

Once you begin to live the way the society lives, you have abandoned yourself to their philosophy no matter what you’ve been taught. Life style will always be the most corrupting element of any pagan society.

I can definitely see that point, through my own experiences as well.  A sampling of luxury, including the luxurious food such as on cruises I’ve been on, has that effect that I desire more of that, and feel that I could indeed get used to this kind of good life.  C.S. Lewis describes a similar effect, in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” of how the evil Queen’s food affects young Edmund, to the point that he must have more of the Turkish Delight and desires nothing else.

The key difference between this area (the food) and the first two relates to the lifestyle.  After all, they could change his name but that wouldn’t change his soul.  He could filter out the bad stuff in the education.  But God’s word clearly said not to eat certain things, and, more importantly, prohibited idolatry.  As with the Corinthians in Paul’s day, the food at the Babylonian court had been sacrificed to idols, and here Daniel drew the line.  How do you know where to draw the line and not compromise?

MacArthur:  “Where the Scripture draws the line; I draw the line… right there.  If there is a clear word from God, that is the character of an uncompromising life. He would not defile himself, he would not be stained, he would not be polluted by disobeying Scripture.”

From the follow-up text, we see that God blessed Daniel and caused the officials to look with favor on him.  We also see that Daniel has great wisdom, tact, and boldness.  Rather than blatantly saying that the king’s food would defile him, Daniel could have simply made some less offensive excuse — that he wasn’t used to it, so used to eating Jewish food that the king’s food would give him an upset stomach.

One important point from these sermons:  when we take a firm non-compromising stand, we have God’s resource, His unearthly protection.  MacArthur:  “if we didn’t speak the truth and compromised, we would be on our own. If we spoke the truth no matter what happened, then God is our unearthly protector. And if God says you live, there isn’t a king in the world that could take your life, right? Not one. Boy, that’s terrific. I mean, you have nothing to fear. You say – Well, if I really say what I think…if I really stand for the truth, I’ll lose my job. So, compromise and lose God’s resource…does that make sense? Who do you want on your team, your boss or God? There isn’t a boss in the world who could move you until God allows it.”

Daniel 1 has some very convicting truths, a strong lesson from Daniel’s example about not compromising, that which is so easy to do in our world.  Daniel’s life stands out, so different from all others, and yet this is only the first chapter.  Daniel’s life and character set the stage for the amazing events and revelations that God would soon give him.

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