Is your new year starting out well? Do you have troubles and challenges facing you? Hard to match the upheaval faced by a young teenager named Daniel. ♦
If you grew up going to Sunday School, you’re familiar with the popular Bible character, Daniel. He’s most memorable in our minds as the one who miraculously survived the lion’s den and then the fiery furnace with his 3 friends, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego.
Of course Daniel is well-known for much more than these strange and unusual events. He informs kings of the meanings of their dreams and visions (and downfall), he reveals the coming secret of 4 historic world-empires and God’s universal kingdom. His own final dream and visions are captured in the last five chapters of the Book of Daniel where he lays out fantastic pictures of warring beasts, the prophetic 70 weeks, and his vision of the glory of God and coming “time of trouble” which many confuse for the end of the world.
I’ll deal with his prophesies at another time (Hint: it’s tied to Matthew 24, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and a 1st century perspective on the Book of Revelation.)
A key lesson that hits me about this remarkable man who lived a remarkable life is seen immediately in Chapter 1 of Daniel. It starts with a teenager around the age of 15.
An Amazing Teenager
Daniel was no ordinary boy. Yes, he was born into an upper class family and possessed natural good looks, but he was a strongly principled young man of faith.
His world changed in 605 B.C. when Israel was overrun by the aggressive Babylonian empire.
It was a like a new year and a new life.
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 1:1-2)
Things do happen for a reason. God is in control of everything. God gave Judah (Israel’s southern kingdom region of which Jerusalem was its capital city) into the hands of an evil nation. The cause was punishment for their flagrant disobedience perpetuated over many, many years.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service 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 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….(Daniel 1:3-5)
The best and the brightest (and richest) were taken first in the initial siege. It’s estimated that eventually upwards of 10,000-20,000 out of 75,000 living in Judah were exiled to Babylon in the first of two deportations. By 586 B.C. the city was decimated along with the beautiful Temple built by Solomon some 400 years earlier.
Daniel resolved to stand on faith and obedience.
But 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. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
Daniel makes an offer to his captors.
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
What’s going on here? Daniel and his good Hebrew/Israeli friends do not want to dishonor God’s Law relative to a stated food diet for His “Chosen” people (chosen to fulfill an ultimate bigger picture purpose: Christ). This is not about requiring all of us to become vegans. Daniel is merely obedient to God over man as a 6th century Jewish man.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
Daniel’s obedient discipline, even in the midst of an abrupt upheaval of life and world, was rewarded with gifts by God, spiritual/natural gifts that would serve him well. His life of commitment and devotion was transformed to a life of purpose and impact. The rest of his life is a testimony to God’s hand on those who, with devotion, follow Him.
Is your year starting with upheaval or ease?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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. – Romans 12:1-2