What would it be like to be taken as a captive to a different country? You are forced to leave behind quite a good life – you are well-educated and your family is part of the nobility of your country. Because of your background you are selected to enter the service of the conquering king. It will take three years of training to learn the language, court etiquette and anything else you need to know to enter the service of the foreign government. But you are a captive. You can’t return home. You must do what your captors tell you.
Then comes the challenge: the king has given those being trained food from what he himself eats. But to eat this food would defile you in some way. Yet you have been told to eat it. What do you do? Do you remain true to what you believe? Or do you go ahead and eat, after all (you reason) you really don’t have much of a choice.
This is the position that Daniel and his three friends – Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – found themselves (see Daniel 1). The easier course of action would be to just go along with what they were told. The more difficult path, especially since they were captives, was to refuse the food. They made up their minds that they would take a stand.
As you read through Daniel chapter 1 we can see that Daniel was not obstinate and unreasonable. Rather than just refusing to eat the king’s food he approached the overseer of the court officials, the one in charge, to explain his predicament and ask permission not to defile himself.
The official was fearful that they would end up being malnourished – after all, this was the king’s food – so Daniel suggested a short trial period. For ten days he and his three friends would eat vegetables and drink water. After the ten days they could be compared with the other young men and then an informed decision could be made. This was agreeable to the warden.
“At the end of the 10 days their appearance was better and their bodies were healthier than all the young men who had been eating the royal delicacies. So the warden removed the delicacies and the wine from their diet and gave them a diet of vegetables instead. Now as for these four young men, God endowed them with knowledge and skill in all sorts of literature and wisdom—and Daniel had insight into all kinds of visions and dreams.” (Daniel 1:15-17 NET)
Today we can easily understand why they would have been healthier eating a vegetable diet as opposed to eating a rich diet. They were so much healthier that they influenced the diet of all those being trained – they were all given a vegetable diet.
Whatever the problem was with the king’s food, they had not been promised that all would work out as it did. Yet they still were determined not to defile themselves. It was a matter of remaining faithful to God, even though they were far from home and no one would really know what they were doing. The result was that God blessed them.
What about us? Are there situations when we are on our own and have to make a choice whether remain faithful to God or give in and do something we know isn’t right? What do we do? Do we reason that it is easier just to go along with everyone else and not ‘rock the boat’? Or do we choose to remain faithful to God no matter what the consequences are?
There was an incident in Scotland many years ago when a Christian young man stood up for what he believed in. The result for him was that he was tarred and feathered and walked through the town. His mother went behind him, encouraging him to “Dare to be a Daniel”.
May we ‘dare to be a Daniel’ when we are faced with difficult choices in our lives.
Photo by Sven Hilker from pixabay.com
Readings for next week: Lamentations 3-5; Obadiah; Daniel 1-2