Far From Home

Every day you are faced with choices. Some of them are very easy to make, such as what you are going to have for dinner. However, other choices are more difficult to make, and may well have far reaching consequences. In the Book of Daniel you can read about a young Jewish man named Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and the choices they had to make. Their story begins when they are taken from their country to a foreign nation, Babylon, as you can read in Daniel 1:1-2

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure-house of his god.

Daniel and his friends are, in fact, only teenagers when they are taken from their country. Their nation has sinned against God, and God disciplines His people by allowing them to be taken into exile. And Daniel is one of the people taken into exile, even though he himself has not sinned against God.

This means that Daniel finds himself among a people who speak a foreign language, whose customs are foreign to him and whose gods are foreign gods.

Furthermore, he is not allowed to choose his education system. It is chosen for him by the king. And he is even given a Babylonian name. And all of these things are for one purpose only: that Daniel and those with him will forget that they are Hebrew people who serve the Hebrew God, as you can read in Daniel 1:3-7

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of the court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and the literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names; to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

It seems that Daniel accepts all these changes. After all, he is a prisoner of the Babylonian king, so what can he do as a prisoner? He knows very well that if the king is not pleased with his behaviour he can order Daniel’s head to be cut off. So it makes sense for Daniel to play it safe, and to just go along, for nothing is worth losing his life over, or is it….?

One of the things the king has ordered is that Daniel and his friends are to be fed the food and wine from the king’s table. This will have meant that their food and drink are of the very best quality and we would expect Daniel to be very pleased that he has been selected to eat the food and drink the wine from the king’s table.

Let’s read Daniel 1:8 so see if that is so:

Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

How strange. Daniel accepts everything the king has decided for him but when it comes to some food and drink items he decides not to eat any of these foods, or drink any of these wines. We would want to say to Daniel, “Please, Daniel, don’t refuse to eat the food and drink the wine selected for you, for if the king finds out that you refuse to eat the food and drink the wine that is served on his table he is bound to become very angry, and it will only mean you will lose your head after all. You have been so careful up to now. You have accepted whatever the king has told you to do, and that is very wise of you. But why have you suddenly decided to go against the king’s wishes for you? Please think again, for surely you are just talking about some food and drink items, and it is not worth losing your life over these items. Apparently, to Daniel, this food and drink issue is important enough to take a stand. The reason behind his refusal is that Daniel knows that he is a Hebrew. Learning a different language, learning the Babylonian literature, even receiving a Babylonian name, has not changed him into a Babylonian. On the contrary, he remains a Hebrew. And as a Hebrew, he is committed to keeping certain dietary laws. And breaking these laws means disobedience to his God. That is why Daniel is determined not to eat the food and drink the wine of the king’s table.

Now you may say: “That story does not apply to me for I am not a Hebrew living under the Old Testament laws. I am a Gentile believer and even Jesus makes it very clear that a person is not made “unclean” by what he eats.” And that is true for, in Matthew 15:11, Jesus says

“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth makes him “unclean.”

Therefore, eating and drinking does not affect the condition of a person’s heart. However, Jesus does not stop there, but explains in Matthew 15:18-20 how a person becomes “unclean” when He says:

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man “unclean”. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man “unclean”…..”

Daniel will have known these things as a young man and, apart from making the right food and drink choices which are in line with the Old Testament dietary laws, he will have watched his thought life. You are to do the same as you can know from Philippians 4:8 where the Apostle Paul writes:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

This means that you will need to select what you read, what you watch, or what you listen to, for these things affect your way of thinking. So, there will be times when you need to make a choice and not watch something, read something, or listen to something, for these things not only affect your thinking; they affect what you say.

That can be awkward at times for you may well be tempted to compromise by reading something, or watching something, or listening to something, that you know is not in line with the Word of God. You may even be tempted to think it does not matter, for you believe no one else is aware of what you are doing. But remember, God knows, for God sees everything you do. Therefore, act like Daniel did, and make a decision not to watch, not to read, or not to listen to something you know will not please God, for God wants you to have a renewed mind as, you can read in Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.

You receive a renewed mind when you spend time reading, meditating and studying God’s Word, in order for you to learn to think in a way that is pleasing to God. Having a renewed mind will cause you to speak in a way that is pleasing to God, and will cause you to act in ways that shows your love for God and for others, as you can read in Luke 6:27-38, where Jesus says,

“But I tell you who hear Me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. And if you are good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” lend to “sinners” expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Now, you know that Daniel is only a young man when he makes this decision not to eat the food and drink the wine of the king’s table. But does he remain committed to obeying His God as time goes on? After serving king Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel next serves king Belshazzar. This king so displeases God that God allows Babylon to be taken over by the Medes, when king Belshazzar is killed, as you can read in Daniel 5:30-31

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

However, Daniel remains at the Royal Court and now serves king Darius, as you can read in Daniel 6:1-2

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss.

Daniel remains faithful and loyal to the one he serves, for he knows that he is not just serving a king, he is serving his God. Likewise, you too are to serve God in whatever you do for the Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

The king is very pleased with Daniel’s faithful service to him, as you can read in Daniel 6:3

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Unfortunately, the other administrators are not as pleased with Daniel as the king is, so they want to take action against him, as we can read in Daniel 6:4

At this the administrators and satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

These men are not able to accuse Daniel of anything, because he lives a life totally devoted to his God and to pleasing Him. And is that how you live? Do you live your life in such a way that no one can accuse you of any wrongdoing?

Does that mean that the enemies of Daniel stop trying to take action against him? Sadly no, and they think they may have found something to accuse him of, as you can read in Daniel 6:5

Finally, these men said, “We will never have any basis for charges against this man Daniel, unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

The question is: Are they successful? You can find out from Daniel 6:6-9 what happens next.

So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said, “O, king Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, satraps, advisors and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered – in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So king Darius put the decree in writing.

King Darius, no doubt very flattered by the request of his administrators, puts out the decree as requested by them. Their flattery has made him forget one very important thing, and that is that his foolish action may well cause him to lose his most treasured servant, Daniel, to the lions. For Daniel has never in all his years of service at the Court given up on worshipping the God of Israel. But perhaps this time he will at least give up his daily practice of praying to his God three times a day in front of his open window. Surely, even God will not mind if he stops praying in front of that window? After all, God will be able to hear his prayers even when they are prayed in another part of the room where no one can see him. Moreover, his knees must be worn out because of all the kneeling he has done over the years and his body is, very likely, no longer strong enough to be able to fight off lions. Therefore, God will not mind if he changes his habit somewhat, so that his life can be preserved and he can continue to serve his God. But is that how Daniel reasons? Daniel 6:10 tells you what he does when he gets home.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

That day Daniel goes back home and he prays at his usual spot, in front of his open window, facing Jerusalem. Once again, he makes a choice to continue to obey his God, regardless of the cost, knowing full well that his action will bring him before lions, as you can read in Daniel 6:16

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

The king has no choice but to have Daniel thrown before the lions. All he can hope for now is that Daniel’s God will keep Daniel safe. That night, sleep evades the king, and as soon as it is light, he gets up to check on Daniel, hoping against hope that he is still alive, as you can read in Daniel 6:19-23

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “O king, live for ever! My God sent His angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Words cannot describe how the king feels when he hears the voice of his trusted servant Daniel declaring that, yes, he is alive and well, for his God has watched over him, and has not allowed him to be touched by the lions.

So, we know from this account that Daniel obeyed his God throughout his life. Likewise, God wants you to live a life of obedience regardless of the challenges you may face. As a believer, you will face a being that acts like a lion, as

Peter writes in I Peter 5:8

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

This “lion” is obviously not a physical lion as Daniel had to deal with, but is the devil who is a fallen angel. Moreover, this fallen angel makes himself look like an angel of light, as you can read in II Corinthians 11:14

And no wonder, for satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

Therefore, the devil’s ways are very deceptive, and that means you are to have a close walk with the Lord in order to be able to withstand him, as James writes in James 4:7

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

You are to live this life of faith in God on a daily basis, and it ought to affect the way you think, how you speak, and how you act. You are not to compromise on your faith in any way, for that would mean you are denying the Lord the place you have given Him in your life. If He is your Lord then He is to be your Lord for all times, and in all circumstances, regardless of what that might mean. It may mean you will be misunderstood, or even mocked for your stand. If that is so, then you are simply to forgive those who do these things to you, for they do not know what they are doing. Jesus is your example, for He forgave those who crucified Him, as you can read in Luke 23:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

And you are not to give up doing what you know to be right, as Paul writes in Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

God wants you to trust Him to take care of you. And He will do so, for He has promised to never leave you, as you can read in Hebrews 13:5

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

And God wants you to look forward to the day that you will hear the Lord’s praise, which you can read in Matthew 25:21

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, be like Daniel, and ask the Lord to help you to obey Him every day of your life, regardless of what may happen, for God will take care of you in the same way that He took care of Daniel. The author of the Book of Hebrews writes that the Lord never changes, in Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Therefore, you can trust the Lord to help you live a life that is pleasing to Him, just as He helped Daniel to be faithful and obedient to God in everything that he did.

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