When offered new foods to eat do you accept or to refuse? If you refuse there is a risk of commiting a faux pas or causing offence. In Botswana 2005 I was served Ox liver at hospice lunch for guests and patients. Not what I wanted! Yet right to eat, wrong to refuse. Daniel in today’s passage had similar dilemma but, unlike my situation, he was right to refuse.
But first let me set the scene, then we’ll look at the meal set before Daniel, and finally look at the God this passage sets before us…
- Setting the scene
Book of Daniel records events c.600-530BC, when Jews (S Kingdom) in exile in Babylon. Northern kingdom of Israel had already been invaded in 722BC.
Jews had lost their land, their city, their Temple, their freedom and their Jewish identity (re-named, new language and re-trained). Sad, doubting, oppressed, confused, crisis! Had God abandoned his people? Were Jews finished – should they integrate or remain faithful?
Daniel himself a prominent Jewish exile, with intellectual, adminstrative and prophetic abilities. A man given prominent position in Babylonian civil service.
Daniel shows us how to live as God’s faithful people in a foreign land with different values and different ‘gods’. As Christians we are aliens in the world (1 Pet 2:11) and citizens of Heaven not earth (Phil 3:20). Increasingly evident in our secular society, whose values are rapidly diverging from Biblical ones.
Daniel also contains passages that point to Jesus (e.g. as the “Son of Man”) and tells us about the end times. Plus some great stories (fiery furnace and lions’ den) we’ve all known since Sunday School!
- The meal set before Daniel
In our passage today young Daniel refuses King’s food. He refuses the meal set before him. He resolves to take a stand.
Probably because to eat a foreign kings food would have been to accept his authority & imply loyalty. Possibly also thought exile was a time to mourn, not feast on rich meat (Isa 22:12-13). Or he considered meat unclean or offered to pagan idols – not certain. Whatever the precise reason, Daniel had conviction that it was right not to eat. His obedience to God demanded abstaining from the King’s food and eating vegetables instead.
Society expects us to dodge tax, lie, speed, binge drink, divorce, gossip about colleagues but keep quiet about Christ, put our career before church, etc . Yet we should not conform, we should not submit. Let’s abstain from the sinful ungodly beliefs and behaviour of society around us! Resolve to do what is right, as Daniel did. Paul says in (Rom 12:2).
- The sovereign God set before us
God not, Daniel, is the hero of this story. The most powerful and impressive figure here – even greater than King Nebuchadnezzar. God’s power and righteousness shown in several ways:
God “delivered” king and temple articles to Babylon (v.2). Exile was God’s punishment for Judah’s sin and rejection of God (2 Kg 24, 2 Chr 36). Exile promised in Mosaic law (Lev 26:31-34; Dt 28:49-52) and predicted by prophets (e.g Isaiah, Jeremiah. Micah). Exile of Daniel and friends part of God’s plan. Babylonians only tools in God’s hand. Instruments of his good plan.
God also “caused” the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel (v.9). God can turn human hearts. Prayer for people is worthwhile, ask him to turn hearts of people who oppose us and oppose Christ. God also enabled Daniel and friends to remain healthy with veg diet. God honoured their stand. God “gave” wisdom, knowledge and understanding to Daniel and co afterwards (v.17). All our talents and abilities from God, so give thanks and use them for his glory.
God is in control. Daniel believed this and so should we. It is a great spur to prayer and to confidence for the future.
As I finish, Daniel’s example inspires us to stand firm in faith. To do what is right, even under pressure and at personal cost of popularity, reputation or income. Let’s trust God and resolve to obey him come what may.
Jesus did and it brought short-term hardship but vindication and glory at resurrection. We may face hardship too, God’s way is not a guarantee of an easy life now, but if faithful we shall share in Christ’s resurrection and glory.
In meantime, trust God is in control. Pray for his help and guidance, pray for him to turn hearts to Christ and give thanks for his gifts to us.