Reader: “Daniel was determined”
Response: “not to defile himself. ”
Scripture: Daniel 1:1-21
During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:
Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
Hananiah was called Shadrach.
Mishael was called Meshach.
Azariah was called Abednego.
But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.
God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.
When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
With the Resurrection still fresh in our minds, I can’t help but think how many times Daniel was “resurrected” from a difficult situation. We come today to a most familiar story from the First Testament, the story of Daniel and his three Jewish friends. As we walk through the events of Babylon overrunning Jerusalem, we see how four young men exercise faith in the midst of a hostile environment. I’d like us to reflect on how we respond to hostility toward Christianity in our world in light of Daniel and his friend’s response to their situation.
Daniel is a young man closely following the Lord at this point of the story. Daniel’s ruler is Jehoiakim who has led the nation of Judah in rebellion against Israel’s God. In other words, a godly young man is living in his own country under godless leadership. To make matters worse, Judah is overrun by the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar in accordance with the Lord’s grand design. Daniel’s family had roots in royalty (King David’s line) and as a result his family was exiled to Babylon in 605 BC; more people came later in 597 BC (Ezekiel), and the rest in 586 BC. Daniel is probably between ten and eighteen years old at this point and he is handsome! According to the historian Josephus, it was common for young men in this situation to be made eunuchs.
Nebuchadnezzar attempted to convert Daniel (meaning “God is my judge”) and his friends to the social and religious ways of Babylon. Changing their names to Babylonian names was part of that indoctrination and an attempt to rewrite their past history, a common practice when attempting to change a culture. Without offending his overseers, Daniel offered an alternative demonstrating his wisdom. We should also note that God caused Daniel to be in favor with his captors receiving their respect and affection. Apparently, Daniel was a nice guy without an “attitude.”
When Daniel talked with the chief of staff in regards to wanting a different diet, the chief was reluctant. You’ll note that Daniel did not give up but made the same request of the underling of the chief who agreed to Daniel’s suggestion. Do you get the idea that Daniel is both persistent and gracious? Incidentally, Daniel and Joseph are the only two people in Scripture about whom nothing bad is said . . . other than Jesus.
After their ten day test, the Hebrew young men were healthier and sharper than the other young men who ate the food assigned by the king. After the training period was over, Daniel and his friends were interviewed and selected by the king to enter his service being superior in every way to his magicians and enchanters. The result was that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah had great influence on the leadership of a pagan nation though they were captives! In fact, Daniel served under four kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede and Cyrus. His wisdom, insight and ability to interpret dreams was legendary. He was a legend in his own time! He served in the court of Babylon the entire seventy years of exile and was probably in his eighties when thrown into the lion’s den. It is interesting that a righteous person who honored God’s way would be attacked in an attempt to destroy the person. Whether it is Haman in the book of Esther or the jealous officials in the book of Daniel, in both cases the accusers fell into their own trap. Hatred of righteousness pays a heavy price.
In conclusion, did you notice a number of very significant phrases in today’s pericope? “The Lord gave him . . . (Nebuchadnezzar)”, “The Lord permitted him . . .”, “God had given the chief of staff . . .”, “God gave these four young men . . .” and “God gave Daniel.” The first words concerning Daniel personally were “Daniel was determined . . .” In those words we learn of Daniel’s character and faith in the midst of a difficult situation. Match that with the four phrases above and you see the unfolding plan of God for a man and for a nation. Daniel spent that vast majority of his life living in a foreign land and making an impact on that land. You must see the parallel to our day. Friends, we are living in a foreign land, citizens of heaven our true home. In a sense, we are living in a “home away from home.” Let us live with Daniel’s determination trusting in all the “Lord gave!” May we impact our world as Daniel did his.
Music: “Be Still My Soul” Libera
Prayer: (Reminds me of Daniel)
Teach us, Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen. ―St. Ignatius of Loyola