Far From Home

Our final story is about a young man named Daniel. His story begins when he and three of his friends are taken from their country, Israel, to a foreign nation, Babylon, as we can read in Daniel 1:1-2                                                                                                                                 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, 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) “I used to live in Jerusalem but today I am in Babylon. That is because the king of Babylon invaded my city Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1). And he took many of the people away to his country. Three of my best friends and I were taken into Babylon as well. We were then taken to the Palace to live there (Daniel 1:3-4a). Of course, we are considered prisoners of the king. It seems that the king wants us become like Babylonians rather than Jews for he has given each one of us a different name (Daniel 1:7). But I know that I am Daniel. And, of course, my friends still call me Daniel and will always call me Daniel for that is who I am, Daniel. The king has as well designed a study program and in that program we have to learn the Babylonian literature and the Babylonian language (Daniel 1:4b). Again, it seems that he wants us to follow this study program to make us forget that we are Jews and make us think like Babylonians. But I know that no matter what I will have to study I will always be Daniel the Jew. And I will always worship the God of Israel and not any false god, including the false god of Babylon.”

It seems that Daniel accepted all these changes. After all, he was a prisoner of the king of Babylon, so what could he do as a prisoner? He knew very well that if the king was not pleased with his behaviour he could order Daniel’s head to be cut off (Daniel 1:10). So it made sense for Daniel to play it safe, and to just go along, for nothing was worth losing his life over, or was it?                                                                                                                                     One of the things the king had ordered was that Daniel and his friends were to be given food and wine from the king’s table (Daniel 1:5). That would have meant they were given the very best food to eat and the very best wine to drink. No doubt, Daniel and his friends would have appreciated that privilege. Let us read Daniel 1:8 to see how Daniel viewed this offer of food and wine from the king’s table.                                                                                                 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.

(Daniel) “Today I have had to make a very difficult decision for I have had to say “No” to the king’s offer (Daniel 1:5a, 8). Of course, you may say, “How can I say “No” to the king’s offer for I am only a prisoner.” And you are right. And you may say to me, “Daniel, you have been able to accept everything else. You have been able to accept that he has given you a different name (Daniel 1:7). You have been able to accept this study program he has put you in (Daniel 1:4b). Why would you now suddenly want to say “No” to his offer of food and wine from his table (Daniel 1:5a,8)? Surely Daniel, that is not worth losing your life over (Daniel 1:10).” In fact, it is. You see, for the king to give me a different name does not make me a different person. For me to study the Babylonian literature and language does not make me a Babylonian. But eating from the king’s table and drinking his wines will make me disobedient to my God. That is why I have to refuse his offer. I have spoken to the person who is in charge of me and my friends. He is very concerned that we do not want to eat the food from the king and drink his wines (Daniel 1:10). But we have asked him to test us by giving us only vegetables to eat and water to drink (Daniel 1:11-12). And I believe that God will bless our obedience to His food laws and will enable us to be even stronger and healthier after eating this diet (Daniel 1:15).”                                                                                                                                      Now we may say, “This story does not apply to us for we are not Jews living under the Old Testament laws. We are Gentile believers and even Jesus makes it very clear that a person is not made “unclean” by what he eats, for Jesus says in Matthew 15:11                                         “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him “unclean” but what comes out of his mouth, that is what 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 makes a man “unclean.”                                                                                                                                                                                     Daniel would have known these things as a young man and, apart from making the right food and drink choices, he would have been careful of his thoughts too. We are to do the same, as we know from Philippians 4:8 where 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 we will need to select what we read, what we watch, or what we listen to, for these things affect our thinking. So there will be times when we will need to make a choice and not read something, watch something, or listen to something, for these things do not only affect our thinking, they affect what we say. That may be awkward at times, for we may well be tempted to compromise by reading something, or watching something, or listening to something, that we know is not in line with the Word of God. We may even be tempted to think that does not matter, for we may believe that no-one is aware of what we are doing. But remember, God knows, for God sees everything. Therefore, let us act like Daniel did, and make a decision not to read, watch, or listen to something we know will not please God, for God wants us to have a renewed mind, as we 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.

We will receive a renewed mind when we spend time reading, meditating and studying God’s Word, in order for us to learn to think in a way that is pleasing to God. This will cause us to act in ways that show our love for God and others, as we 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, Daniel was only a young man when he made that decision not to eat the food and drink the wine from the king’s table. The question is, did he remain committed to obeying his God as time went on? After having served king Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel eventually served king Darius when he was given a high position at the Court, for the king was very pleased with him, as we can read in Daniel 6:1-3                                                                                                                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. 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.    

This caused the other high officials to become jealous of him, so they devised a scheme to get rid of Daniel by requesting the king to have anyone who did not pray to him to be thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6:6-9). However, Daniel, knowing about the decree, did what he did as usual, as we can read in Daniel 6:10-11                                                                                 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.                                                                                                                                                               (Daniel) “Last night I slept in a rather unusual place, for I slept in the king’s  lions’ den (Daniel 6:16). And my companions for the night were real lions. But they were good companions, for they slept all night. And I slept as well. I have now just woken up and am waiting for the king to come and see me (Daniel 6:19). He will be so pleased that I am alive and well. You may wonder why I ended up sleeping in the lions’ den rather than in my own bed. So let me tell you. I used to serve king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:19 – Daniel 4:8)). But then he died. And after him I served king Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1, 13) but he was replaced by king Darius. And king Darius has given me a very important position in his kingdom. In fact, the number one position under him (Daniel 6:3). That has caused the other high officials to become very jealous of me. So they wanted to get rid of me. And they tried to find a reason to get rid of me. But they could not find anything wrong with my actions and my life because I know that it is very important to serve my king well because  that will please my God (Daniel 6:4). They then devised a scheme whereby they knew they would get rid of me. They did this by going to the king and asking him to issue a decree that all the people in his kingdom should only pray to him for a period of thirty days. The king issued that decree (Daniel 6:6-9). I learned about it. What was I to do? Well, I knew what I was to do. I knew that I should continue my habit for it is my habit to pray to my God three times a day in front of my open window facing Jerusalem. So the day I received the notification of this issue I went to my room as usual. And I knelt down in front of my window facing Jerusalem, knowing full well that I would be watched (Daniel 6:10-11). And that, no doubt, very soon guards would knock on my door and take me to the lions’ den (Esther 6:16). But I have served my God all these eighty years. And He has been faithful to me. So I trusted that He would watch over me even in the lions’ den. And He has proven Himself to be faithful for here I am. And I am well. The lions have not attacked me because God sent an angel to the den to shut the mouths of the lions. So they would not attack me (Daniel 6:22).”

So we know from these accounts that Daniel obeyed his God throughout his life. Similarly, God wants us to live a life of obedience, regardless of the challenges we may face.  As believers, we may 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 a angel of light, as we can read in II Corinthians 11:14                                                                                                            “……. For satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

Therefore, the devil’s ways are very deceptive, and that means we are to have a close walk with the Lord, in order to be able to withstand the devil, as James writes in James 4:7  “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  Just hear this, “He will flee from you.”

We are to live this life of faith in God on a daily basis, and it ought to affect the way we think, what we say, and how we act. We are not to compromise our faith in any way, for that will mean we are denying the Lord the place we have given Him in our lives. If He is our Lord, then He is to be our Lord at all times and in all circumstances, regardless of what that might mean. It might mean we are misunderstood, or even mocked for our stand. If that is so, then we are to simply forgive those who do these things to us, for they do not know what they are doing. Jesus is our example, for He forgave those who crucified Him. We read that in Luke 23:34                                                                                                                                            Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.                 

And we are not to give up doing what we 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 us to trust Him to take care of us. And He will do so for He has promised never to leave us, as we can read in Hebrews 13:5                                                                                  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

And God wants us to look forward to the day that we will hear the Lord’s praise, which we can read in Matthew 25:21                                                                                                           “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So let us be like Daniel, and ask the Lord to help us obey Him every day of our life, regardless of what may happen, for God will take care of us in the same way that He took care of Daniel. The author of the Book of Hebrews writes that the Lord never changes as in Hebrews 13:8        “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

Therefore, we can trust the Lord to help us 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.

Conclusion                                                                                                                             May these stories encourage us to know that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us, regardless of our status in life, our nationality, or our gender. And may we all fulfil His plan for our lives.