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Daniel in the Courts of Nebuchadnezzar: A Test of Values

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Daniel in the Courts of Nebuchadnezzar

A test of values

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Daniel in the Courts of Nebuchadnezzar: A Test of Values

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Daniel's life in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon called upon him to take a stand for obedience to the living God rather that human government.

The message introducing the historical setting of Daniel's life can be found here - https://www.ucg.org/sermons/the-life-and-times-of-daniel-the-prophet

Transcript

Daniel in the Court of the King

Genesis 11:1-3 Genesis 11:1-3 [1] And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. [2] And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelled there. [3] And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
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In 605 BC the army of Babylon moved into Palestine and subjugated the kingdom of Judah. They carted off the treasures of the temple and took much of the nobility and skilled tradesmen of Judah as captives to Babylon. Daniel, the prophet was among those captives.

The Hebrew text of Daniel calls Babylon by its ancient name... Shinar. A name that points us back to the plain where people first sought to unify themselves under one government and magnify themselves before God.

Babylon in the time of Daniel was not a new kid on the block... it was only the most recent version of an ancient civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Babylon had risen and fallen many times. From the biblical perspective it is the place where wickedness dwells Zechariah 5:5-11 Zechariah 5:5-11 [5] Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said to me, Lift up now your eyes, and see what is this that goes forth. [6] And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goes forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth. [7] And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sits in the middle of the ephah. [8] And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the middle of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead on the mouth thereof. [9] Then lifted I up my eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. [10] Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Where do these bear the ephah? [11] And he said to me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there on her own base.
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Babylon remains the biblical label for the wicked nature of human self government from the time of Daniel... to Zechariah... to our own day and the prophecies of the end time. Babylon is a cultural, social, and political model of human self government with its own standards of righteousness... standards that are presented as the alternative to the righteousness, and authority of God.

  • Daniel lived in a Babylonian world --> You and I live in a Babylonian world
  • Daniel had to find a way to survive in culture hostile to God --> You and I must survive in a culture hostile to God

The record of Daniel's exploits does not offer us a handbook of what to do in every situation we face... but through him we learn a little bit of what is expected from us if we are to find favor, protection, and blessing from God John 17:15-17. [in it but not “into it”]

What is Good in Your Eyes

Daniel 1:3-5 Daniel 1:3-5 [3] And the king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; [4] Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. [5] And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
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 notice the emphasis on status (royalty, noble birth), beauty, and intellect. Here you have a quick listing of what is considered good and worthy in the eyes of the world. None of these are evil in and of themself, but they are a false measure of what is good…. what’s eternal and lasting. 

Daniel could have become filled with pride and self importance... Babylon considered him worthy; handsome, intelligent, and of noble birth. To find favor with God, Daniel would have to resist.

Likewise, some of us in God's Church have a lot going for us, others do not. We cannot evaluate what is good, on Babylon’s standards... God's standards for what is considered good are very different: humility, patience, gentleness, self control. But to find favor with God we must buy into His standards and values.

The wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. But the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Babylon Tests Daniel’s Values

Daniel 1:6-14 Daniel 1:6-14 [6] Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: [7] To whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave to Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. [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: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. [9] Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. [10] And the prince of the eunuchs said to Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall you make me endanger my head to the king. [11] Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, [12] Prove your servants, I beseech you, ten days; and let them give us vegetables to eat, and water to drink. [13] Then let our countenances be looked on before you, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as you see, deal with your servants. [14] So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
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 to stay true to himself as a servant of the living God took conviction, courage, wisdom, commitment, and self control:

1> Conviction: Daniel had to be fully convinced that the commandments, statutes and judgments of God were valid, necessary, and important. To withstand a test of Godly values you must:  

  • believe that God is there. He is living, thinking, and actively engaged [God exists]
  • believe that you have His sure word found in scripture [bible is valid]
  • take the time to know what it says... not just reading it but knowing what it says [doctrine and moral instruction]

To withstand a test on some point of doctrine, moral behavior, or worship, you have to know, know that you know, and know why it matters. This takes time and application.

Daniel had been raised in the truth. He had good habits of thought and behavior... but at some point he had to make it his own. No one was watching... he could do what he wanted. Daniel wanted to obey.

Courage: Daniel's request was risky, the king might have taken it as an insult. Daniel could have lost the favorable circumstances he had. Even if his plan worked it would probably ostracize him from the others in his peer group who were "going along" with it. [Daniel 3:8 Daniel 3:8Why at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
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shows this did happen]

Courage is not a matter of ignoring reality, or pretending the threats are not there. Courage understands there might be painful consequences and does it anyway... because of conviction the point of conflict is. God says “some food are off limits”… Babylon says “no they’re not

For Daniel, his identity as a man under the authority and judgment of God meant more than all the perks, status and tasty treats Babylon had to offer.

Wisdom: Daniel fulfilled the biblical charge to be "harmless as doves... but wise as serpents". 

  1. He asked permission rather than demanded. He had God's favor such that this person was willing to listen. Yet, even with God's intervention Daniel approached the man respectfully and rationally. 
  2. He offered the chief official a reasonable plan to accommodate his request.
  3. He took into consideration how this request could hurt the official in the eyes of the King.

In the same way we should present our desire to serve God in a manner that makes sense to outsiders. instead of blasting away at them about things they don't believe and don't care about. Don’t forget they are equally convinced of their own position.

Daniel was a captive in the courts of Babylon, but, he was still a representative of God... and God's truth. You and  I live in a modern Babylon, we may disagree with our society's hostility to God, and to His law. But, we have a responsibility to represent God with respect, but with firmness and well thought out words.

This requires time and effort... "be ready to give an answer, a reason, an explanation for the truth you believe".

Commitment: Daniel proposed a 10 day test, after which the appointed guard could decide for himself if it was working... If it isn't then you decide what to do with us.

I do not believe this meant Daniel would eat whatever he had to if the test failed. I believe it meant he would accept the consequences of his firm decision to not eat the unclean food... execution, prison, or sent to the work camps on the Kebar river.

Daniel's obedience was not contingent upon God's deliverance. He was going to obey anyway.

As Jesus said to Satan, "Do not put God to the test". God might test you, but it is not for you to test God. God might throw down a challenge and say "test me on this". He might do something miraculous and say “here is proof of my power”. But it is not for us to demand that God prove Himself to us.

To say "I will believe God if He does X" is displeasing to God. This was the nature of Satan's attack on Job, "this Job only obeys you / loves you because you bless him with wealth, and health". Testing God, demanding a sign, is Satan's way of thinking.

In the same way,  Daniel could have argued "God had not saved us, here I am a captive of Babylon...so why obey? No one would know what I do, and no one will care.

The Power of Remembering

A technique brought out over and over in scripture is to hang on to the mighty works God has done in the past… to remember the proofs of His power.

  1. Scripture is more than a handbook for moral behavior... it is a record of God's interventions in human history. That is why we spend time going over the biblical record of past events, tying them into history, dates, archaeology. These matters can be verified and they are there so that you might have confidence in God's supreme rule over all creation.
  2. You also have you own personal experience to hold on to. If you have believed and been baptized... at some point God proved Himself to you... remember that, hang on to it. Remember the many subtle quiet ways God demonstrates that He is with you, blessings, answered prayer etc.

Sometimes prayers are not answered...sometimes you might wonder where God is... sometimes you are tested.

Daniel was prepared for that possibility... if the test fails I will bear the consequences… but when the dictates of the Babylon conflicted with God, Daniel knew he must "obey God rather than man".

Self Control: the food offered to Daniel was the finest in the land. The smell of the grilled meat would fill the air... the wine was rich and full bodied. Everybody else was eating. It had to be tempting...

The human mind is a tricky thing... partly spirit and capable of thinking the loftiest of thoughts... partly flesh and driven by appetites for food, sex, power Romans 7:21-29 Romans 7:21-29 [21] I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. [22] For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: [23] But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. [24] O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? [25] I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
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We are not permitted to use this as an excuse for sin, rather it is a call to battle 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 [24] Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. [25] And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. [26] I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: [27] But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
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. It is amazing to me how much of Paul's pastoral writing circles back to matters of food and sex. The other BIG ONE is status/power/ establishing and maintaining a pecking order (check out Galatians 5:19 Galatians 5:19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
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 which spells out the passions of the flesh and see how much is related to status and politicking).

The Flesh is Very Persuasive

The flesh presents you with some compelling arguments. The flesh has all those hormones, nerve endings, and  genetically coded survival mechanisms working on its side. The flesh's case is simple and effective "if it feels good, it is good".

The spirit can be beguiled by this material logic "surely a loving God would no want me to miss out"... "a loving God would not want me to never enjoy XXXX".  Food is not evil --> sex is not evil --> status is not evil. It is God’s will that you enjoy and experience these things.  BUT, within established boundaries:

  1. certain expressions of eating and drinking which God considers unclean
  2. Certain expressions of sexuality God considers out of bounds
  3. Those who are proud and arrogant are an abomination

We should know what these boundaries are, know why they are necessary, and know why they matter. This takes mental effort. We must "rule over our spirit" and “rule over our flesh” based on scriptural parameters.

Daniel 1:15-16 Daniel 1:15-16 [15] And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat. [16] Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them vegetables.
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 Daniel's resolve and conviction found favor with God and he was delivered. And, as a result Daniel was…

Positioned to Serve God in a Greater Way

Daniel 1: 17-21 Daniel was given a commission in the service of Nebuchadnezzar.

If he had never gotten himself into his controversy over unclean food he probably would have obtained some minor position in the Babylon’s court and gone on to enjoy a nice life. But Daniel's resolve and commitment to obey God also set him up to be a servant of God in a big way. 

God gave him special gifts of knowledge and understanding.  He would be a witness of God's truth to the first of the great gentile kingdoms, he would become a prophet to his own generation and to ours. And it began with obedience Acts 5:27-32 Acts 5:27-32 [27] And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, [28] Saying, Did not we straightly command you that you should not teach in this name? and, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood on us. [29] Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. [30] The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree. [31] Him has God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. [32] And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey him.
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You cannot serve God... you cannot, be a witness of His true message, you will not properly represent Him in a hostile world... if you do not obey.

Daniel was trained in the literature and culture of Babylon... laws, mathematics, astronomy, etc. He would have also learned about their religious system, their customs, and moral code. Some of it would have been value neutral. Some of it would have been opposed to God.

To be an effective servant of God Daniel needed to understand the Babylonians, what they taught, what they believed. He knew all this but was able to hold himself apart from it. You and I are in the same position. We need to understand what is going on in the world… but not be sucked into its ways.

We Also Live in a Babylon World

God has not called you so that you can be whisked off to a safe place somewhere off the grid where you can practice your religion without conflict, questioning, or trials. You have been called to serve him as a witness of His ways 1 Peter 3:13-18 1 Peter 3:13-18 [13] And who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good? [14] But and if you suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are you: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; [15] But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: [16] Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. [17] For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. [18] For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
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